"Alone/For All Those Who Grieve
is a collection of poems and prose about coping with the strain of caregiving and grief and healing after my dementia-stricken wife’s long goodbye. It is written to help those who suffer a grievous loss to work through their grief and discover a road to redemption.
The book is based on my experience as well as the experiences of others I encountered in support groups. There are five categories: Caregiving Loss Memories Recovery and Healing. I don’t pull punches and deal frankly with living the vow 'in sickness and health until death do us part ' including a gut-wrenching moment only days before she died when she could hardly speak and whispered in my ear 'Take me to Heaven.'
Being alone during these times is a heavy burden on those who grieve. It is hoped that the account of my journey may help grievers to rise from the ashes of their agony."
“W. F. (Bill) Cento didn’t set out to write a book for people who are grieving but Alone is not only a wonderful tribute to his wife Vera Ann it is a heart-wrenching and spirit-lifting account of his days as spouse and caregiver.”–The Catholic Spirit (by Pat Norby)
“Bill Cento wrote Alone to cope with the loss of his wife and to help others who are grieving. He has sent over 1 000 to pastoral care ministers and individuals who can find solace in his words–words reflecting his loving relationship the difficulty and tragedy of illness.”–Andrea Langworthy Minnesota Good Age
"...In September World Alzheimers Month evangelist Pat Robertson kicked up a media fuss when he said it's sometimes justified for a spouse to divorce a wife or husband with the disease.
Bill Cento didn't do that. He cared for his late wife Vera Ann and he reveals the emotional roller coaster of being a caregiver and widower in his lovely new book Alone: For All Those Who Grieve (Tasora Books $14.95).
'... I hope to partially bring life and meaning to the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi by attempting to sow faith where there is doubt and hope where there is despair ' he writes.
Disclosure: Cento was one of my bosses when he was a St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press editor and he's one of the nicest men I ever worked for. I met Vera several times and remember her as warm and gracious. But even without this personal connection I would have been impressed with the writing and raw emotions in Alone. There are plenty of books about Alzheimers/dementia including 'how to' and memoirs but prose and poetry are rare.
Cento who lives in West St. Paul takes readers through the stages of his journey in chapters about caregiving loss memories recovery and healing.
Vera Ann's 'long goodbye' began five years before her death on Dec. 3 2006 after she had lived for 13 months in the dementia unit of Cerenity Bethesda Care Center in South St. Paul.
'We were married in May/the month of lilies and lilacs...Our lives were forever spring/flowering refreshing fulfilling/until this 42nd May when/a slowly falling curtain of forgetfulness finally separated her/from all our shared memories.'
Cento writes that Vera's dementia 'came like Sandburg's fog - on little cat feet....'
How long had it been lurking in her tiny body? There ready to attack and gnaw to nothing all her intelligence memories sweet words that told me she loved me - all gone replaced by curses flailing fists with clenched fingers that once gently caressed me while making love.'
Anyone who has cared for a loved one with memory loss will agree with Cento's honest admission that 'caregiving can be an unbearable burden at times.' And yet he stayed the course:
'The stress of caregiving bears heavily upon me /building a burden so intense/that there are times - oh so many times --/when all I want to do is leave it all behind/...Then - is that an angel? - whispers in my ear /'in sickness and in health ' and the words/of the vow again renew me and I find strength once more to resume the tender care of my loved one.'
Cento also acknowledges the guilt caregivers feel when their loved one must be institutionalized no matter how good the facility or caring the staff.
'... I gave Vera Ann all the care I could but never felt it was enough...Guilt is a heavy part of the burden a caregiver carries and it's one of the hardest to let slip from your shoulders.'
Although Cento was told never to look back when he left the care center he did so one day and was devastated to see his wife's face 'pressed against the small window in the door.' He remembers his anguish as he listened to Vera's screams when she had to be strapped to a gurney for the journey to the hospital after she fell.
Yet the couple also shared quiet tender moments when they found refuge in the care center's day room: 'Often she would sleep and sometimes I would join her for a nap as she rested her head on my left shoulder. She was at peace then and that made these precious intervals very special because the demons of fear pain and anxiety were banished if only for awhile.'
In the chapters on grief after his wife's death Cento describes the emotion as 'a leopard waiting to pounce.'...
A caregiver for five years and a widower for five more years W. F. (Bill) Cento has had the experience of finding his way through what some call the labyrinth of grief. He has written Alone from the perspective of someone who has carried the burden of caregiving felt the sting of losing a spouse to dementia cried the tears mourners cry bounced from the deep bottom of depression and is riding the rutted road to recovery and discovery of a new life.
Words have been Cento’s constant companions all his life as editor of his college newspaper at St. Louis University and through his professional life as a copy boy cub reporter copy editor an editor of national and foreign news editor of a Sunday paper managing editor and associate editor of daily metropolitan newspapers in St. Louis and St. Paul. In his retirement he’s edited newsletters for labor unions and published his own newsletter A Letter From Minnesota that was read by former Minnesotans worldwide.
A major turning point in his life came in 1959 when he helped lead a 99-day strike by the Newspaper Guild over the issue of providing a vested pension plan for employees. As a result of his union activity he was unable to find a suitable newspaper job in St. Louis and traveled to St. Paul for work – one of the best moves he ever made because it was there that he met Vera his future wife and the person to whom this book is dedicated.
Bill currently lives in St. Paul – alone.
"He urges those who mourn and are feeling bad to imagine what they find beautiful and what makes them happy and to remember the good times." - Mary Ann Grossman St Paul Pioneer Press Oct 2 2011
''Alone - For All Those Who Grieve is a collection of poems and prose about coping with the strain of caregiving and grief and healing after my dementia-stricken wife's long goodbye. It is written to help those who suffer a grievous loss to work through their grief and discover a road to redemption. The book is based on my experience as well as the experiences of others I encountered in support groups. There are five categories: Caregiving Loss Memories Recovery and Healing. I don't pull punches and deal frankly with living the vow 'in sickness and health until death do us part ' including a gut-wrenching moment only days before she died when she could hardly speak and whispered in my ear 'Take me to Heaven.' Being alone during these times is a heavy burden on those who grieve. It is hoped that the account of my journey may help grievers to rise from the ashes of their agony.''
Written by authorities in Death & Grief, Alone - For All Those Who Grieve by W. F. (Bill) Cento provides an excellent foundation for Death & Grief studies. W. F. (Bill) Cento's style is excellently suited towards Death & Grief studies and will teach students the material clearly without overcomplicating the subject. What's more the text is available in the Hardcover format shown above (ISBN 9781934690505) as well as a number of other formats. As of September 2011 this revision raises the bar for Alone - For All Those Who Grieve's high standard of excellence making sure that it stays one of the foremost Death & Grief studies textbooks."--BookRenter.com on 10/9/11
“Cento describes well the ambiguity of caregiving and bereavement. His poetry moves from the deeper grief of living with a wife that was not fully there to his emerging discovery of his resilience and hope for the future even while living with loss.” --Ted Bowman Coalition News December 2011
“Newspaper editor Cento…lucidly presents the stages of coping with the strain of caregiving and the grief and healing after a loved one dies."--Publishers Weekly Jan. 2 2012:
The hardcover edition is available here..