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Holding on to Mamie: My Mother, Dementia and Me was written following the death of Elizabeth Murray’s mother in 2008

By Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Author Elizabeth Murray will be doing a book reading on Monday May 29 at the Woodstock Public Library. (Submitted photo)

Author Elizabeth Murray will be doing a book reading on Monday May 29 at the Woodstock Public Library. (Submitted photo)

A Winnipeg writer’s tragic journey with her mother into dementia will be spotlighted in a book reading event hosted by Alzheimer Society of Oxford.

Author Elizabeth Murray will share her bittersweet story at the Woodstock Public Library on Monday, May 29 at 7 p.m.

Holding on to Mamie: My Mother, Dementia and Me is her poignant tale of her mother Ellen May Murray’s decline into dementia and Murray’s role as caregiver, and how the disease threatened their bond.

“Holding on to Mamie describes my attempt to preserve my bond with my mother through her descent into paranoia and hostility, much of which was directed towards me as her primary caregiver,” she said. “I want people to be aware of the many different faces dementia has and be more aware of the anger, paranoia and darker sides of dementia. Too often we don’t talk about these things and they are very difficult to deal with.”

Murray, who in the early stages her mother’s dementia also dealt with her own cancer diagnosis, said the hardest part of their journey was finding paranoid and hostile notes crammed into cupboards, shoeboxes and closets after her mother was placed in a long-term care facility.

“The notes weren’t really any different from what she was saying to me verbally,” she said. “But they were really painful and had a more lasting effect on me.”

Holding on to Mamie was written following the death of Murray’s mother in 2008. It was released in 2015.

“I hope by sharing my journey people know they are not alone dealing with the difficult symptoms of dementia,” she said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

In the end, despite the pain they caused, the notes helped her process what had happened and spurred her to write about her experience.

“They helped me understand it wasn’t her, it was the disease,” she said.

By 2031 the Alzheimer Society of Canada predicts that 1.4 million people with be living with Alzheimer's by 2031.

“A growing number of people will be forced to deal with circumstances that are similar to those I faced as they struggle to recognize and understand the symptoms of the disease and cope with the many challenges of caring for a loved one who is afflicted,” Murray said.

Holding on to Mamie will be available for $21 at the event.

HRivers@postmedia.com