Several times over the past four years, I’ve written sharing something wonderful a friend has created. Today, I want to introduce you to my dear friend Sarah B. Smith and her book that releases to the public today, Broken Beauty: Piecing Together Lives Shattered by Early-Onset Alzheimer’s.
Broken Beauty is an inspirational memoir about Sarah’s family’s journey with her mother, Rebecca “Beauty” Bearden, who has Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease. Broken Beauty is not only about their struggle to care for Beauty and her “broken” mind but a daughter’s fight to lead her family to choose love and hope in a seemingly hopeless and tragic situation.
Because Sarah is one of my closest friends, I was privileged to have glimpses into this time in their life and support her and her family. My middle daughter and her oldest daughter are very close friends. She has gone with a group of girls to sing and serve the residents at the wonderful place where Beauty now lives. This family brings so much joy where ever they go and inspire others to do the same.
I thought I knew the story but there was no way to truly know the depth of someone’s pain and despair. Reading this book is like a window into her soul and a ride like no other. I read the whole book on the flight home from Italy this summer in one sitting. I could not put it down and I know how it ends!
Broken Beauty is a story of God’s love, strength and hope for everyone. I am truly inspired by my friend in the book and on a daily basis. Through her Instagram account, @beautyinalzheimers, she has connected with and inspired so many going through the same journey caring for a loved one. #alzheimerscantstopthelove is her rally cry and she hasn’t let anything stop the love she and her family have for her mother.
I asked her a few questions about the book and writing it that I am happy to share with you today. If you are looking for a good book to read or need some hope right now, this book is for you! It is available today on Amazon and is #1 in it’s genre already!
Q & A with author Sarah B. Smith
I felt compelled to share our story because when my mom was diagnosed I knew nothing about this disease, and it was hardly discussed. I was in my early 30s, and I didn’t have one friend who could relate to my situation. They may have had a grandparent with dementia or Alzheimer’s, but it’s different when it is your young, fit, and healthy parent and best friend. I began searching for reading material and anything I could get my hands on that would give “symptoms” of the disease and some sort of timeline, and while there was plenty on dementia and Alzheimer’s, the lack of information for Early-onset Alzheimer’s was frustrating. Years later and now in my 40’s, and after walking alongside Mom’s emotional and mental instability and the ugliness of the disease, God began nudging me to share and write what I was going through. I was a happy stay-at-home mom of three, wife to an amazing husband, driver of kid to and from sports, school and activities. I never in a million years thought I would or could write a book! God continued to press it on my heart, and after many “signs” that I simply could not deny, I couldn’t turn my back on Him and went for it! God was my true inspiration.
You have such a strong faith and I know your mom was a big part of that formation. Tell us what she was like before early onset Alzheimer’s.
Mom was a very strong-willed and stubborn woman with a lot of determination. Because of that, she was an incredible leader and gave her best with any given task. She loved helping others, taking care of her family, leading women’s Bible studies, spending time with friends. Mom was constantly hosting things and people in her home. She was loving, fun, funny, and could be quite chatty! Mom was always interested in others and wanted to get to know people on a deeper level, not just “small talk.”
She was devoted to God, family, and if she felt led to share her faith whether at a football game, the mall, or on the corner of a street, there was no stopping her. Mom was fearless, bold, adventurous, loved to dance and play outside with the kids, take them shopping, and she especially loved taking them on road trips or vacation! What I loved most about Mom before her disease was she was all about quality time. Both of my parents are like that and generous with their time. Because of this, our kids felt comfortable crawling up in her lap and begged for us to let them go see “Beauty and Pop.” She was a woman with a huge heart full of love.
You are extremely close to your father also. How has this changed your relationship with him?
Dad and I have always been super close. I’m for sure a “Daddy’s Girl!” After Mom’s diagnosis, we became even closer. My dad is a quiet man. He’s slow to speak (opposite of my Mom!), slow to anger and quick to listen. Because he is quiet and internalized his emotions, it was hard to get him to talk about her disease in the beginning. But over time, we drew even closer as he began to voice his feelings and share his heart, deep sadness, and slowly reach out for help. He didn’t want to burden me with her illness, but he finally realized that we needed each other to get through this and we became a great father-daughter team.
Dad and I have had a tight bond since I was a little girl. Honestly, he’s the closest human being on earth that I can compare to my Father in Heaven. He is so humble, patient, kind, and gentle, and he’s never chased after “things.” As I’ve gotten older, I appreciate it so much more because he lives one of the most full lives even though he doesn’t travel much and isn’t super social. He is full because his heart is FULL of God, and the fruits of the Spirit pour out of Him daily, and it blesses me deeply. He has all that he needs, and dad desires to please God with all that he does. That’s what life is about.
What is something you learned about yourself while writing this book?
I’ve learned that I can do anything that God asks me to do. It doesn’t matter how big or small, if it’s from God, and I spend time with Him and seek His heart, I can do anything because of His strength. The impossible becomes possible. I’ve also learned how much my God and parents love me. Of course, I know they love me, but it’s a deeper understanding of the depth of their love.
I mentioned earlier Mom was a strong-willed and stubborn woman, and along with that came control. Because she loved me so deeply, she tried to control different parts of my life because she wanted the best for me and didn’t want me to mess up or miss any opportunities in life. Her love for me has taught me what it means to truly give back and love and serve others. I’ve learned there is so much more to life than material possessions and what my house looks like inside and what others think about me. That’s all great and fun, but it doesn’t matter! What matters is how I please God and share my hope in Him in this life with others.
What advice can you share for someone affected by Early-onset Alzheimer’s? How can they help their children understand and support their family member?
My advice would be to live in the moment. Don’t think about what may come or about them dying or forgetting who you are. That opens the door to an enormous amount of pain, suffering, heartbreak, guilt, shame, etc. I’m not saying be in denial, either, and it’s important to mourn and grieve, but don’t focus on those things for too long. Focus on living in the moment and on your loved ones heart. When I focus on who my Mom was before this disease and hone in on those beautiful attributes, I feel over time those attributes about Mom become more visual than the disease itself. If Mom can’t open her mouth wide when I brush her teeth, I focus on the blessing of being able to clean her teeth and keep her dignity.
Don’t let the disease win. If you focus on love, always, you will gain an incredible strength and not only bless your loved one and those around you, but you also will be blessed. Also, medication is crucial. Many people are hesitant and scared of medication. To hear my own father say how important it is reveals the necessity of medication! My parents are anti-meds. Always have been. When he finally trusted the psychologists and doctors and convinced her to take them, it truly balanced out her anxiety and restlessness. It’s important not only for your loved one but also for the caregivers and people around them. It’s a game changer.
What do you want people to take away from your story?
We all have a story. We will ALL go through a very difficult time in our life. It’s how we handle that difficult time and how we USE it while here on this earth. We need more stories of hope! I turn on the news these days and many times get so depressed and irritated! It seems way more negative than positive, and it brings me down. I want people to feel built up, encouraged and inspired by our story. I hope that it helps them get through whatever difficult journey they experience- whether divorce, financial loss, illness, tragedy and loss, broken friendships, and so on. T his story is not only about Early-onset Alzheimer’s. It’s a story about love, how to seize our negative thoughts and focus on the positive, and that we can conquer ANY thing we face with God on our side. It’s all about learning how to surrender and be the best you can be in this life and live to love.
Sarah and me at my birthday lunch last week. So very proud of her!
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