Sarah Veness: 'Don't curse the darkness - light a candle'
The words pierced my heart.
‘Don’t curse the darkness – light a candle’.
I had never heard this proverb before. It had been a dark time since my stroke, occasional flashes of light brightened the journey but this was an illuminating moment that changed my life forever.
Life changing happenings weren’t a new concept, after falling on some ice I had a head injury, then three weeks later a stroke, which left me with left side weakness, impaired speech and short term memory loss. I am so grateful to my friends who have supported me, I couldn’t have reached this point on my own.
Not all the changes were negative, if I was prepared to look for the positives and embrace them. I had more time to be creative, to take photos, and be with friends, but having to stop driving, losing the spontaneity of being able to go where I wanted, when I wanted, and being slower at ordinary things like cooking and other basic tasks, it seemed as if a fog that enveloped me.
I pondered on the proverb, questioning myself about how I could find the light, the answer was quite simple, I realised I needed to look for the opportunities to be positive, turn away from the darkness, ignite the candle and then share the flame with others.
I became an active member of the Alzheimer’s Society Talking Point Forum, giving and receiving, really helped me focus. I trained as a Dementia Champion and my doctor was amazed that from having such slow speech as a result of the stroke, I had progressed to speaking in public and with more confidence than I had ever had previously.
I have started with a friend, running a monthly Reminiscence Group in Northampton and have been involved in caring for a friend who has Early Onset Alzheimer’s. We were an unlikely combination but he and I have enjoyed bus rides, mooching in charity shops, and going to Memory café’s together.
2017 is the year that I felt I really found my voice, my memory loss and cognitive skills were still with me but I decided to attend a creative writing course and explored a new way of being creative.
I find it hard to read novels as I lose the thread of the story and keep reading the same bits over and over again, as I try to recall the plot, and the characters. Short stories entered my life and I enjoyed reading new authors, and being able to hold the stories in my head.
I began writing short stories and enjoying the challenge of inventing places, people and situations.
Stephen Loveless, my tutor encouraged me to enter a couple of contests and to my amazement I won the National Memory Day short story competition. This was such a boost, so I decided to write a book of short stories for people like me and their carers, on the theme of memory. I was also shortlisted in the Alzheimer’s Society, Living With Dementia 2017 poetry competition.
I so want to empower others who find themselves in a dark place, to become aware that the darkness doesn’t have to define them.
I hope that my first book ‘The Memory Box’ will reach into people’s hearts and minds.
It’s illustrated with simple line drawings and is easily readable and is also suitable to be read aloud to an individual or a group.
I decided to make it as available as a paperback, a large print edition for those who would benefit from a larger type size and as a Kindle book. Audio book will be available soon. It doesn’t mention anywhere dementia or Alzheimer’s, (other than I was shortlisted in the poetry competition) so if it is given as a gift the person receiving it will regard it as just another book.
The book is available on Amazon: bit.ly/sarahveness
If you would like to a free taster you can read the award-winning story, called ‘The Inner Song’, on my blog Cookingbykindlelight.wordpress.com
The books dedication is as follows -
‘To everyone who fears the dark: ‘Don’t curse the darkness - light a candle’
My hope is that through reading this you, your family, friends and clients will catch a vision and find your hearts lifted, attempt new activities and discover a new light in your lives.