Frank and Sue Borg have been in love since their teens. And even Frank’s increasing problems with dementia have not changed that. So when he was asked what his dream day would look like, he straight away knew that he would like to repeat the best day of his life.
When Frank and Sue said their wedding vows way back in the 1960s, they could not have known what life would bring. But more than 50 years later, one thing had stayed sure for the couple. They had lived their lives together, and their love was still strong at the turn of 2019.
Sue shared her feelings about their wedding. She told local news station WEAU, “We were younger. It was a very small wedding at our church in Rochester, Minnesota.” And as we will see, it was an occasion that stayed fresh in the mind of Frank too, despite problems that had afflicted him as he had gotten older.
That day springs readily back into the mind of Frank’s little brother John too. He said that he recalled it as though it was a recent happening. And in the retelling, he reflected on what Frank meant to him. He told WEAU, “I was 16 and they were 19 and they were getting married and he was my hero.”
Moreover, John reminisced about how Frank felt about Sue. It seems that Frank knew what he wanted and would not take no for an answer. John told WEAU, “He was a relentless pursuer of her and finally, he finally won and got her to fall in love with him and they got married.”
However, a few years ago, Frank’s health began to deteriorate. He started struggling with the effects of dementia and because of that, he needed special care. As a consequence, he now lives with the condition at a center called Azura Memory Care in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Eau Claire is a city that lies towards the west of the middle of Wisconsin. Although it is only the ninth largest city in the state of Wisconsin, it serves as the seat of its own eponymous county. Indeed, at one time the settlement was a center for the lumber trade, bursting with sawmills, but nowadays most of its citizens work in health, schools and colleges and retail.
Frank had first started to feel the effects of dementia in 2016. And his family confirmed that since then they had noted a deterioration in Frank’s condition. Indeed, since he had been a resident of the Eau Claire area, the Azura Memory Care establishment in the city appealed as a site for the care that he needed.
Azura Memory Care is a Wisconsin-based firm that focuses on high-quality supervision. Long-time health-care professional Josh McClellan founded its parent company, Azura Living, in 2008. And since then the company has opened up 11 locations besides Eau Claire, at which it provides care for those who have conditions related to memory.
Meanwhile, Azura Memory Care offers patients ways to tackle their challenges in memory, pursuing its goal to “transform the culture of memory care.” It gives them a range of therapies and activities every day and its staff receive what is known as “MOSAIC training,” to help its community live with memory loss.
Dementia is a catch-all term given to any lessening of cognitive function. For a diagnosis of the illness, two ways the brain works must be affected. These might include thought, remembering, speech, judgment or behaving. It’s not considered a disease since it can have all sorts of causes and be of varying severity.
While there are some cases of dementia that can improve, some scientists do like to only use the word “dementia” for mental deterioration that cannot get better. The commonest cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, is of this type. Those who live with Alzheimer’s have a decrease in brain function as time passes. And once fully in the grip of this condition, a person might dissociate from their family.
It’s not known precisely why people get Alzheimer’s disease. But sadly once the decline starts, nothing can bring it to a halt or turn it around. This means in time that those who live with it have to depend on other people. Consequently, dementia is a heavy weight to bear, particularly for family members.
Meanwhile, given the problems that dementia poses, you need to try innovative solutions in caring for patients. One of Azura Memory Care’s approaches is called the MOSAIC Dreams Therapy Program. And as part of that initiative, it offered the chance to Frank to make a special dream come true.
Azura Memory Care’s communication and engagement regional director, Paula Gibson, explained the project to WEAU. She said, “We developed a program along with Second Wind Dreams called MOSAIC Dreams and its really finding out what would their best day be. What would their dream be?”
Since 1997 Second Wind Dreams has been trying to alter views of aging by making older people’s dreams come true. And at the same time, it provides education for carers in coping with challenges arising from the condition. Indeed, it certainly has helped create some special days for Azura Memory Care residents.
A good example of this is Eleanor, who lives at the Sheboygan center. Before her retirement, she taught at an elementary school, and her dream was to have one more chance to be around kids in the classroom. Eleanor took the opportunity to visit the third grade at her former institution, and while there she read to the kids and asked questions.
And for Eleanor another surprise awaited. One of the school’s teachers, known only as Mrs. Luedtke, popped her head around the door. Amazingly, it turned out that Eleanor had in fact taught Mrs. Luedtke when she herself had been a third grader. That wasn’t the end of the surprises though. That’s because the day came to a close with dinner at an eatery owned by another person whom Eleanor had once taught, who showed his gratitude by tearing up the check.
Meanwhile, another dreamer, Elaine, had a big day when she visited the hairdresser. One of her major loves in life had been getting her hair fixed up by a professional. So being treated to a trip to the salon proved very exciting. And the pleasure gained a boost when she was also taken for a family lunch.
For Meda, a resident at Azura Memory Care’s Clinton establishment, a trip to church was just what the doctor ordered. MOSAIC Dreams took her out to South Beloit’s St. Peter Catholic Church, the very spot where she had celebrated marriage to her husband more than half a century before.
Meanwhile, Oak Creek’s Bob had an abiding love of golf, and he didn’t want to let Alzheimer’s get in the way of that. And reportedly, the day went swimmingly for him. Playing golf once more got him smiling and interacting with his family, taking the sting from his recent hospice admission.
Meanwhile, another Bob, who lived at the same Oak Creek facility, had a simple dream: he wished only to spend his birthday with his family. Their tradition was to chow down on tacos, Bob’s favorite edible. So his dream came true with an intriguing twist on June 14, 2018, which was of course Flag Day.
Bob’s family all turned up wearing the colors of the flag. And Azura Oak Creek’s community relations director Denise Jurecki summed up the mood on the company’s website. She said, “It was really touching to see all of the smiles at the table and see Ray and his family enjoying dinner out at a restaurant together. This is truly what our Dreams Program is all about.”
So when it came to Frank’s turn to answer MOSAIC Dreams’ question, he didn’t waste too much time in answering. And for his wish, he wanted to relive what he claimed to be his life’s pinnacle. Indeed, Frank’s memory might have been failing, but one thing remained very clear to him.
The wish that Frank wanted to be granted was to give his wife Sue a surprise, but what was it exactly? Well, he told the wish-granters that he would like to marry Sue just as he had all those years ago, renewing their vows in front of friends and family.
Meanwhile, when Sue had heard about Frank’s wish, she was not in the least bit surprised. She explained to WEAU, “That’s just how Frank is.” And she gave a little insight into why their love for each other had lasted for more than five decades. Sue continued, “He’s always been wonderful and happy.”
So MOSAIC Dreams wheeled into action, aiming to bring Frank back to the altar, this time at Trinity Lutheran Church in Eau Claire. And this wouldn’t just be a change in venue. This time there would be a pair of new witnesses for the wedding: Indeed, Frank and Sue’s kids served in that capacity.
Frank told the team that Sue had sported blue at the original ceremony. He could also recall that her wedding bouquet had included blue carnations. Furthermore, he knew that they had eaten her mom’s angel cake. So the MOSAIC Dreams team knew they would need to involve the community to recreate those details.
And local businesses did not let them down. Florist Brent Douglas Flower put together the special floral display, while Sue’s Deluxe Bake Shop baked up a storm in the form of the cake. Everything was soon set for the special day with only one detail remaining: Frank’s memory of the bride in blue.
Of course, Sue did put on a blue dress for the occasion, just as Frank had remembered her. So they were set, and when the big day arrived, WEAU TV sent reporters to get it all on film. The resulting video showed on local TV, but the tender moments it shared caught nationwide viewers’ imagination as it went viral.
The video found its way to 20 million viewers as of February 2019, and they were able to enjoy the moment when Frank and Sue said their “I dos” again. And the emotion of the vows proved very real: the people in the church can be seen in the video wiping away the tears that flowed.
Many of those in the church couldn’t resist crying for joy as the couple swapped rings. For their part, Frank and Sue’s kids paid them a touching compliment by lighting the unity candle for them. And Frank, visibly touched, had a few words for WEAU to express his feelings. He told the news crew, “[It was a] very fun day.”
Meanwhile, Frank’s brother John shared his feelings about the day with WEAU. He said, “Words just don’t describe all of this and when you combine what’s going on for Frank, health wise and as he is failing at a rapid pace… to see that he still has what he needs in his heart and what’s still so important to him in his life.”
And Frank makes no secret of what’s important to him, as Azura Memory Care’s Gibson pointed out. She told WEAU that he lit up when Sue walked into the room. She said, “[Frank] has dementia. And so a lot of times people forget. He has not forgotten one moment of love that he has felt for her.”
And Sue took every opportunity that she could to light up Frank’s world, visiting him every day that he had been in the care home. She added, “[I go] every day [at] different times of the day, usually after dinner.” However, she did talk of the impact that Frank’s declining health had had on her faith.
“I have a strong faith,” Sue told WEAU in its video segment. “But Frank’s is much stronger than mine.” Meanwhile, the news organization’s video of the day shows a glint in Frank’s eye, and he shows the world that he hasn’t lost his sense of humor. He tells his loving wife, “We’re going to shape you up,” bringing a laugh from her and bystanders.
Sue had not been alone in struggling with Frank’s condition. Indeed, all of his family had found it difficult to cope with his health. And for that reason, the ceremony proved to be something just a little bit special for everyone. And John noted how amazing it had been to see what Frank “still has in his heart.”
But perhaps it’s Azura Memory Care’s Paula Gibson, reflecting on the ceremony and the man whose dream day it had been, who captured best what had made it so moving. She told WEAU, “After 54 years of marriage, a man who looks at his wife with so much love and tenderness in his eyes is amazing.”
Meanwhile, Frank and Sue explained how they got through the heartache that dementia had brought to their lives. They put their ability to continue on down to love. And Sue had a very practical answer when WEAU asked what got her through. She said, “Just being able to see him every day.”
Dementia can be a cruel condition in our later years, but even if our memories fade, some things stay with us. And as Frank showed as he shared a wedding kiss with his wife of more than half a century, the last thing he would lose would be the love that he had for his beloved Sue.