Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle writes a beautiful story of compassion and selfless love for her loving husband, Hob, in Ten Thousand Joys and Ten Thousand Sorrows: A Couple’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s Disease.
After three decades of marriage, they consciously and lovingly begin a six-year journey through this final chapter of their relationship.
Hob is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 72 and Olivia, 58, remembers her own mother’s death from the disease five years earlier.
Their years of meditative practice allow the Hoblitzelle to move toward accepting Hob’s illness as it develops, while becoming better at letting go of our human tendency to cling to what was. Every day, they strive to live in the here and now while Hob loses his memory of his past and his ability to plan for the future. Speaking openly about his experience with the disease, Hob tells Olivia, “This mental loss thing is nature’s way of saying, ‘Stop, shut up. Don’t give me so much to mentally chew on.'”
Not all was peace and acceptance in the Hoblitzelle household. Olivia wakes up from wild dreams. She is stuck in a frustrating “miscommunication dead end” with a resisting Hob. To cope, she drives somewhere and then yells in her privacy to release her pent up feelings. Other times, instead of giving in to her pain, she takes a counterintuitive step; Approaching Hob, she asks for a hug, a loving gesture that softens frustration.
At the end of her journey with Hob, Olivia writes:
He lived… with extraordinary courage, nobility and humour.
She describes the path they took together:
As we stood in the fire of transformation, we were burned and burnished until the gold of love shone unobstructed between us.
Ten Thousand Joys and Ten Thousand Sorrows includes three appendices: Clear Light Guided Meditation for the Dying, Caring for a Loved One in Death, and Discussion Topics. The topics deserve our time and honest consideration, while the guided meditation is truly enlightening.
During an interview, Olivia expressed her hope that her book, Ten Thousand Joys…, would help and serve as a gift to her and Hob to others facing similar challenges.
I chose to take some time to read and digest your gift of experience. As the pages progressed, I was drawn to his authentic voice.
Not many are able or willing to do what she did. Each of our lives unfolds in a unique way. For Olivia, her and Hob’s friends, and her two children of hers, witnessing Hob’s journey transformed her life and is therefore inspiring to us.