It's morning at Meadow Brook Nursing Home. During the last ten months, this has been my mother's abode. Most days, I feel it is mine, too. Life, as I have known it, is a blur. Alzheimer's has taken Mother from herself, her family, and her friends. It has demanded a grit and grace in our everyday lives beyond human comprehension. "I am tormented! Help me! Take this torment away! Help me! Help me! Help me," she screams. Daily I have fought to do that, to bring peace to her life. With every utterance, my heart is torn apart, and I cry out to God to not forsake us in our fight. This disease has taken us from the heights of Heaven to the pits of Hell. Today is different. After my second 36-hour shift at Meadow Brook this week, sleep comes in moments for me or not at all, causing me to be exhausted within and without. Looking at her face, I see a glowing, radiant, child-like spirit filled with love. As I hold her hand, I think of all the hands she has held and comforted in her lifetime. I know that I must tell her story-which ultimately is my story, too-with the hope that it may bring a degree of peace to the hearts of those who have walked, or will walk, the same road. This is our story-the chronicle of the life of a beautiful lady and her family-a life humbly begun, now ending with the devastation of Alzheimer's. Mary Ann Howie, my mother, has lived a long and fruitful life filled with devotion to the noblest causes, ones which evoke human loyalty and commitment. She has lived for her faith, her family, and her friends. She has been deemed by many the last of the great Southern Ladies whose gentle ways have been portrayed in graciousness throughout her entire life. She has lived with abundant vitality and in quiet solitude. She has loved people, places, and things-places as humble as her home and as grand as those visited through her travels. The things she has loved, she accumulated through hard work and endowed with memorable stories, making them more than just things. They vividly evoke times and experiences which we have shared in our lives. This journey had imbued Mother with simple elegance, beauty, and meaning in life. God has used her as an instrument in His hand and filled her with His voice, allowing her to give to others the greatest gift given to mankind-unconditional love. Come with us and experience our joy in her journey home. -Nancy Elizabeth Howie
Nancy Howie grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. She currently resides in Pineville, North Carolina. She graduated from Myers Park High School in 1966 and attended Appalachian State University where she received a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Arts degree in Special Education. She taught children with mental and physical disabilities for forty years. Her career began at the Mecklenburg County Center for Human Development. From there, she transferred to the Metro School and completed her years of teaching at Beverly Woods Elementary School in 2010. Nancy believes that to teach children and be given the privilege of working closely with their families was to "touch the face of God" daily. Her career, while challenging, brought unconditional love to her life daily. Nancy is an avid reader. She enjoys coastal visits to her beloved Sunset Beach that she claims to be her Heaven on Earth, visits to the mountains of North Carolina, being at home with her four-legged companions, Russell and Kasay, her Shih Tzu "furever friends," long lunches with special friends, serving on the Board of Directors in her community for many years, and maintains a deep appreciation in the ability of music to bring joy and peace to her life. Upon retiring, Nancy had one dream-to complete a manuscript she had begun in 1997 detailing her walk with grit and grace through Alzheimer's Disease with her mother. She completed her manuscript and, at a self-publishing workshop sponsored by #1 New York Times bestselling author, Richard Paul Evans, on his The Walk Cruise, was able to meet with the owner, Karen K Christoffersen, of BookWise Publishing and give her a copy of the manuscript. In September 2017, Karen came to Pineville, North Carolina to accept Nancy as one of her authors. Joy in the Journey is Nancy's first literary work. It's the book she wished she could have written while walking with her mother through the daily devastation of Alzheimer's Disease. It is her wish that Joy in the Journey will be a blessing to those who find themselves walking with a loved one on this same journey . . . and that in the end, as Nancy did, they can see and feel the blessings that journey brought to their lives.