A Journey of Love, Loss, and Literature
by Rev Marie Viviane Giroux
The first nine months of 2023 were hard and demanding. It was not until the passing of my mother that I realized that I had not seen spring and summer. I had remained stuck in January. Developing my plan to write French books for people experiencing dementia is one way of coping with my grief. I was most pleased to receive a grant from Clergy Support Memorial Church in support of the project.
My connection with seniors goes back to childhood. My Dad had taken over the family farm and had the insight to add a two-bedroom granny suite to our home. My grandmother lived with us until her passing in 1970 and she was my best friend. Because of her I got a chance to learn so much about my elders; my great aunts and great uncles. I always found their stories fascinating and all these stories are a part of who I am today.
From my elders I learned how to spin a tale. I never thought of myself as an author, but I did dream of one day having a novel with my name on it. After I retired in 2010, I started writing. In 2012 it was finally reality. Can Love Heal was published under my nom de plume ‘Marie Viviane’.
At the time my goal was a hard cover with my name on it. PublishAmerica gave me a seven-year contract. The book was translated into seven languages. But the marketing was costly, and I did not have control over the pricing. The US economy hit a downturn and my publisher went up in smoke. It was a learning experience and this time I’ll be taking a route that many authors are choosing — self publishing.
Throughout my life I have visited nursing homes. Just say, “Beautiful day today” to any of the residents and their eyes light up and a smile comes to their face. It’s magical. For 10 years I was caregiver for my mother. She spent the last eight months of her life between the hospital and a nursing home. Among other health issues, she had PDD (Parkinson’s Dementia Disease).
With mom it was a yo-yo. Often in the last two years she thought I was her sister. I could usually tell by the morning greeting who I was that day. Toward the end I was both daughter and sister in the same conversation. One day she asked me to get her a French book. She was clear in her request, one not too long so she would not forget the beginning before getting to the end. That’s when I decided that I would write one.
I researched the best type of book for people with dementia. Thicker pages so they can turn them easily; their fingers are not as flexible. A picture on one side of the page; writing in large print on the opposite side; half page only for decreased attention spans. Subject matter should be something they can relate to, not mystery, romance, or thriller.
A couple of light bulbs flashed through my mind: La cabane à sucre (the sugar shack), Le jardinasse (gardening), and La vie en chansons (living with music).
I want to publish in French because when publishers translate from English to French, they have the tendency of not using our French-Canadian language but the French of France.
I am proceeding with La cabanne a sucre. I have two good friends who make maple syrup so I will get my own pictures. I am hoping to have the book released by the end of May next year. If all goes well, I will follow up with La vie en chansons to have it ready for Christmas 2024.
I want to raise enough money that I can self-publish. I plan to order a bunch of copies and as I visit with nursing home residents we can read the book, share some thoughts and I can leave them with a copy. My goal is $5000. I’m currently waiting to hear back from my local Knights of Columbus organization for a donation.
I have never thought of what I do as work or ministry per se. I enjoy spending time with seniors. I volunteer with our local church. And officiating weddings is a wonderful experience. Each one is unique. I take pleasure in what I do. This latest project is no exception. I know I will take pride in saying I did it.