Born “Her Grand Ducal Highness Princess Alix Viktoria Helena Luise Beatrice of Hesse and by Rhine”, when her husband Nicholas the Second ascended to the throne as Emperor of Russia her title became “Her Imperial Majesty Alexandra Feodorovna Romanova, Empress Consort.” For his coronation the Imperial Crown of Russia was used, resplendent with its 4936 diamonds, a 398 carat red spinel and 74 large white pearls. Alexandra was crowned with the Consorts crown, a smaller replica of the Catherine crown without the spinel and pearls… but completely covered in diamonds! Nonetheless, despite her titles and jewels, her end was at the bottom of a well into which, after murdering her, the Bolsheviks threw her body like some garbage!
Our mother also had titles: Alice Catherine LaMothe Bohlman, Allie, Mom, Mommy, Ma, Grandma. She also had jewels: a string of pearls that I bought for her on Kauai, a diamond and garnet ring that my sister bought her when they lived in Atlanta, a Zirconia ring that Daddy bought her, and the five-diamond ring we gave her for her 85th birthday, the diamonds representing each of her five children. And yet, despite our wishes, at 5:10pm on January 21st 2016, just three months shy of turning 91, our mother died of Alzheimer’s disease. This, in its way, was a mercy since for the previous year and a half she had been dying of a helplessness that she raged against, raged against how Life was taking her away from herself. And we, too, were helpless hostages on her journey. Yes, we protected her, we provided for her, but none of us could force her train to arrive at any station other than the one to which her life was headed.
Despite titles and jewels, death is “The Great Equalizer”; it’s in living each day that we sometimes experience the inequality. But why? The answer is because we sometimes waste our days in wishing we were someone else, living somewhere else… anywhere but boring old here, anyone but boring old me! This yearning causes us to not be present to the present, and that detachment from “today” is actually a major source of our unhappiness! For us Bohlman kids we could waste our days wishing that we did not possibly carry the Alzheimer’s gene… but as they say here in the South, “If wishes were fishes we’d have us a fish fry!” What we kids have learned is that while Mom died of Alzheimer’s, and while we may carry some genes that could predispose us for it, our active involvement in each day can influence how we take our journey; in short, it is possible to do an end-run around Alzheimer’s through daily exercise (both physical and mental), through paying attention to diet, and most especially through refusing to turn away from or ignore anything that distresses us since, quite often, what distresses us can be addressed and even altered!
By deliberately focusing on being connected to the day we are in, we engage all of the various parts of our brain, of our mind, and of our heart… which enable us to be “us.” Despite titles and jewels it is important to keep in mind each day that ignoring where our life is headed does not cause it to arrive somewhere else; how we take the trip is up to us!