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Blog #15 In Memory of My Mother-in-law

Usually, I avoid writing very personal matters in this blog page, however, I would like to share this story with you.


Recently, my husband’s beloved mother passed away, after having fought against cancer for a several years. She was 85 years old. She raised eight children with her late husband.  Her eight children never even broke any bones growing up!  All have become intelligent, well educated, professionally successful professors, community leaders and executive level directors—and more than good enough adults.  

Her dedication was not only to her family but also to the community.  She taught the 6th graders, and later, she became the Liturgy Director for the catholic parish for 16 years, where she and her family attended.  Her Catholic faith was central to her life, and she utilized her expertise in Catholic liturgical ritual, liberation theology, and African American faith traditions to support her church and community for many, many years until her death. As a result, she had so many dear friends, respected community members, and even fans, all surrounding her. 

As a black woman from the south, navigating oppressive systems, such as racism and sexism, she graduated from a prestigious college in Louisiana.  She was very intellectual and witty.  Because she understood my work around dementia, she always jokingly told me that she felt her cognition declining as she aged and ‘was sure’ she would be my client soon.  But the truth was that she was the last person, in my professional opinion, that would ever develop dementia. Even during her chemotherapy, which had been very challenging for her, she knew her schedule, never missed her appointments, and understood the details of her medication and specifics of the side effects.  She was savvier about how to use pc and smart phone than I am!  She understood her condition, and communicated and used fluently the very difficult medical terminology with her doctors. 

Perhaps she was born with her intelligence. However, her vitality, even when many other American systems were against her as a black woman, was something very special.  She was consistently engaging with people and communities. She was always out there in her church and congregation.  She never withdrew herself from her perspective social groups.  As I touched upon it in my book, social isolation can be a dementia risk factor*1.  My mother-in-law exemplified many things, and especially how to be with people and communities.  She was and is a great role model for keeping her cognition/brain health intact by doing so whether or not she was aware of it. 


Thank you, Renette Mom, for everything.

May your soul rest in eternal peace.  You touched and inspired so many that your beautiful legacy will live on.


*1 Livingston G, Huntley J, Sommerlad A, Ames D, Ballard C, et al. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. Lancet, 2020;396:413-446. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)3036-6

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