Updated: Jul 2
Earlier this year, retired attorney and writer, Cheryl Kempner, published her debut poetry collection, Remember Me: An Alzheimer’s Journey through Art and Poetry. The collection combines Cheryl’s poetry with her mother’s artwork to raise awareness about dementia and the powers of channeling creativity through challenging times.
Working with Cheryl to make this project come to life gave me the utmost fulfillment as I watched her bloom through the process. When Cheryl came to Our Galaxy Publishing with her manuscript, she felt so passionately about the message this book could send to those in similar situations to her family. In getting to know Cheryl, I would say it took her a bit to break out of her shell and embrace the magnitude of the work she’d completed. Like any aspiring author, she wanted the book to be just what her audience needed.
And I believe she did that. Most especially seen through her mother’s artwork, Cheryl so intentionally arranged the book to show the decline of her mother’s artistic abilities over time. The art images start from the 1970s, before mom’s diagnosis, all the way to 2019, until she could no longer hold a pencil in her hand. The images show the world what Alzheimer’s disease takes from those it inflicts and how regression can occur overnight.
In terms of Cheryl’s poetry, what pulled me into her pieces the most was the way she gave a voice to everyone’s experience, not just her own. When asking Cheryl about the sections in her book, she said:
“The first section, ‘Through My Eyes’ is poetry written from my mother’s perspective. I tried to incorporate what I can only imagine my mother was thinking and feeling. The second chapter ‘Through Their Eyes’ is written for the caregivers who devote their lives to their patients or family. Finally, ‘What About Me’ expresses my childhood thoughts about my unfinished relationship with my mother.”
Cheryl’s rhyming verses allow readers to understand the complexities of dementia’s impact in the simplest way. She makes the work accessible to people of all ages and abilities while giving grace to the difficult topics she discusses. In an interview with Patch News, Cheryl talks a bit about how this collection came to be. She mentions:
“Instead of journaling my feelings about my mother's illness, I wrote poetry, hoping to help others going through the same thing. Watching my mother decline made me realize I wanted her artwork and memories to live on and impact others who deal with dementia.”
Cheryl openly discussed that creativity changed how her family dealt with Alzheimer’s crippling effects. She expressed to me that she and her daughter would sit with her mom and participate in creative exercises with her often. According to her, it was a pivotal thing that brought them all together.
And that’s why Cheryl is taking her Alzheimer’s advocacy to a new level, stepping out into the public speaking world and hoping to help families cope through creativity. Most recently, Day Haven Adult Daycare Services invited Cheryl to be a keynote speaker at their Neighborhood of Caring Breakfast. The event honors our older communities, their families, and their caregivers.
Cheryl’s speech, “Using Creativity to Cope Beyond the Chaos,” was presented to over 200 people about the importance of incorporating creative activities into one’s life throughout challenging times. Not only did writing and poetry help her deal with her mother’s condition, but Cheryl believes it was monumental to ease some of her mother’s symptoms. In the speech, Cheryl says:
“Together, we’d sit and draw, and engage her in preschool puzzles, and coloring activities. Not only did we start to realize how powerful it was in reducing the stressors that led to her aggression, and the way it positively stimulated her brain, but it allowed us, as her family, to be an active part of her journey that didn’t just involve doctor’s appointments and administering medication.”
Remember Me is proof that there is beauty in the pain, and that there is always a light in the darkest times. It also acts as a mode of support for families in the trenches of Alzheimer’s with someone they love. It reminds us to hold close to us the things that matter most, and it speaks volumes about how this disease takes root in one’s life.
If you haven’t read Remember Me yet, be sure to grab a copy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or purchase a signed copy on Cheryl’s site. Don’t forget to leave it a review. Cheryl wants your feedback and thoughts.
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