Long Life Movement

Warriors Take Many Forms

My mom was a warrior.  Warriors take many forms.

While only standing at 5’2” and shrinking every year for the past 25 years from Parkinson’s, Marian Forma still knew how to stand her ground.

My Dad even nicknamed her “the boss.”

My mother’s greatest stand occurred within the last 4 weeks of her life. 

She was courageous.

Clearly, she had exhibited her bravery for many years prior.

Over a decade ago, while fully awake, she underwent experimental brain surgery to implant a device that might help her manage Parkinson’s better.  She prepared for the long surgery with yoga, meditation, and guided imagery.

My mom loved science and was diligent in tracking her medications’ effects on her body/mind. She was her own grand science experiment.  She regularly volunteered to receive questions about Parkinson’s and its effects from medical students at Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland Medical School. Willingly, she thoroughly answered the students’ pointed questions about her state of being.

You see, she was a teacher first. She loved education and spent many hours working on curriculum for her elementary students along with organizing plays and science fairs.  In fact, she was a finalist for the esteemed Maryland’s Teacher of the Year / Excellence in Education program. She was a true education warrior who advocated not only for the children in her classrooms, yet also for college educations for our family members.

She was a healthcare warrior for my oldest brother, Mark, during his years at Syracuse University as he recovered from appendicitis and re-grounded in his commitment to his calling of architecture – and now respected for his craft having designed buildings around the globe.

My other brother, Peter, and his wife Sunny – are our family’s US Army warriors – and my mom rallied many times on their behalf from Desert Storm support to caretaking for their oldest son William while Pete and Sunny transitioned to a station in Germany as well as welcoming Sunny, William, and Anya into her Bowie home for a year while Pete served a hardship tour in Korea.

During some of my darkest moments in my life, my mom, even in her frozen, rigid body state, with her shaky handwriting, would send cards of encouragement and books for me to read.  While I suffered, she reminded me to take on the warrior mantle to navigate my life’s storms.

She and my Dad also went to battle for the generation above them, too. Helping their parents negotiate their final years.

When she really needed to muster up, she was tremendously courageous especially in the moments when she was a frozen warrior.

Living with Parkinson’s meant enduring every single day with pain and a lot of time where she could literally not move.  Her body would go rigid and make her not only uncomfortable depending on the position she froze in but also unable to fully express, clearly what she needed in the moment.

These daily episodes were also sprinkled with times of extreme high energy where she had to move to burn off the medications that her life depended upon.

It was a roller coaster for her. And definitely not a pleasant ride. Most of the time, she felt unwell. And she would always say that she looked forward to when she would feel better.

Sweet moments were sprinkled into my mom’s life.

I believe she feels better now.  She is no longer trapped in a body that was a mismatch for her warrior spirit.

My brothers and I find it heart warming to recognize that one of my mother’s favorite non-profits is the US Olympic Committee.  While her body limited her, she loved to support those whose human form excelled beyond.

I believe, the greatest action of her life – where she excelled beyond – where she took the necessary stand – is the one that seals in my mind my mother’s warrior nature.

Her pinnacle heroic moment?

Just over 5 weeks ago…

She walked out of her Bowie home and filled out the paperwork to admit herself and my Dad into a locked memory care unit.

As my mother’s primary caretaker for decades, Bill was no longer able to support my Mom due to his Alzheimer’s.  In fact, roles had reversed. With my Dad not welcoming care givers in the home, my Mom, was trying to tend to their basic needs. Their home life had really spun into a catastrophic state.

While my parents had made a pact to never put the other in a facility, with tremendous fortitude and with her actions driven from her big heart, my mom broke the agreement.

Before my Dad transitioned out of the Bowie home, my Mom was at the facility alone. Those first few days were probably the hardest of her life. After 59 years with Dad at her side, she was now by herself and scared of the possible outcome. At one point, she told me she did not think she could do it. 

Yet, she did. 

Once my Dad made it to the facility, every day, she would go get him wherever he was in the building. They spent about 80% of their time together. While my Dad has his own room, he napped with her and slept nights with her in her room. 

I like to think that in her final weeks, with the burden lifted of tending to basic needs for her and my Dad, that they returned to the sweetness of early life together. Harkening back to their courtship at Syracuse University when children, careers, and extended family were all outside of the perimeter of their hearts connection.

The night before her passing, she had given my oldest brother, Mark, a healthy list of tasks to help make her and Dad’s life a bit sweeter at the facility.  She was advocating.  She was clear.

Warriors come in many forms. From new walkers, to wall art, and furniture, she gave Mark a significant “to do” list.  

And then

my mom, the warrior,

passed in her sleep with my dad resting beside her.

While we see her body, a body that shows strains of a 25 year battle with Parkinson’s…

…may we remember her true nature – a warrior that served with Love and a deep commitment.

about the author

Lisa Long, M.A.

Lisa Long wants to live in a world where Love gives you a "permission slip" to drop the mask and be who you are. Known for her hearty and full-body laugh, Lisa meets people where they are in the present moment. She passionately believes in the healing potential of movement. As a teacher and producer/writer, her work has been featured on Good For You blog, CBS television station affiliates, and telelvision cable channel networks as well her print manual called "Home Practice: A Guide for Healing from Breast Cancer" was published by a 5 hospital health care network. When she's not helping others reach their fullest potential, you'll find Lisa hiking a trail to a waterfall or riding her bike at the beach. Her latest collaboration with an online classroom platform launches in 2020.

8 Comments

  • Janice Faia says:

    What a beautiful loving tribute to a beautiful loving lady.
    I believe that I shall remember Marian as a happily smiling “bride” waltzing with her husband,Bill, at their 50th Wedding Anniversary.
    Dance on, Marian!

    • Thank you Janice for traveling to remember my mom and attend her funeral Mass. Yes, I remember my parents 50th wedding anniversary party, too! They worked for months to prepare for their dance. It was really touching all of the special moments they planned and created for that event. Much love to you for sharing in their life all of these decades. xx

  • Diane Powers says:

    Wow. What a beautiful tribute to your “warrior” mother. You inherited all her best parts. 🙏

    • Thank you, Diane, for reading and commenting on what I wrote about my mom. I hope to write more about her early life, too. Yet, what’s freshest is what recently occurred. And I know when we would go out in public, she knew she looked “off” and would often think of what others thought of her based on how she looked. I guess I chose these images and this story so I could remind folks of the person who is on the inside is not changed – while the outer form of our being does change. Many, many times for the past 2 decades, she talked about this aspect of enduring Parkinson’s — that “the person” remains on the inside. So, in honor of her “teaching spirit,” I chose to follow in her education footsteps with this post.

  • Cori Dykman says:

    My thoughts are with you and your family. Your love, caring and strength shine through everything you do. Her spirit lies within you and makes a difference in many people’s lives. Sending you hugs and love.

    • Thank you Cori. You and your man helped me locate the needed information to assist my parents’ transition. I am eternally grateful to you both for opening your resources and connections to help me understand how to serve my parents. I remain indebted to you both for your willingness to answer my call. xxoo

  • Dear Lisa,
    Your mother sounds like the most amazing of warriors. I see her spirit clearly reflected in you. Thank you for sharing about her incredible life.

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