Easter Sunday ended with my family learning my brother James had passed away. James was younger than my sister and me, but we played, worked, and fought together while growing up. He was closer in age to our youngest brother Joe, who was also included in our childhood pursuits. As adults we were friends and always welcomed opportunities to see each other.

James had lived alone for years and was a very independent person. Several years ago, he attended a family event with a pad of paper and a pencil. He told everyone that he had had a stroke and could no longer speak. But he was able to write an answer to anyone’s question and to write his own questions on paper. He communicated with the members of our large family, and we were all happy that he had come.

However, a short time later we learned James did not have a stroke; he had been diagnosed with frontal-lobe dementia, a disease which was not known or understood by our family. According to information from the Mayo Clinic, “frontotemporal dementia” is an umbrella term for a group of uncommon brain disorders that primarily affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Many of the symptoms include the same behavior caused by a traumatic brain injury or bleeding on the brain.

Frontal-lobe dementia occurs when the brain cells of the lobes atrophy and no longer communicate to the body. The inability to talk is followed by being unable to understand what is heard or read. During the past three years, we watched James develop these problems. He tried extremely hard to write letters of the alphabet to form words that we could read. But, his doctors, friends, and family could no longer read what he tried to write. This disease is a wretched enemy.

James was well-dressed wherever he went. His clothes were jeans with deep creases, starched western shirts and boots. He continued to dress well and drive where he wanted to go as his brain died. As his understanding decreased, he was able to improvise. A few years ago, one of our cousins passed away. I called him to let him know about the services. The next evening his pickup pulled up in front of our house.

James came in and asked about the memorial service. I wrote the names and addresses of the places where events were going to be, and drew a map with the streets named. He gave me a big smile, shook his head yes, and left with the paper. He was at the funeral the following day.

The dementia did not stop James from his activities for a few years. This disease can appear to be like ALS, but it doesn’t affect the muscles directly. Without signals from the brain, the body parts no longer function. Frontal lobe dementia is a devastating and debilitating disease. James handled the changes in his body with grace and determination.

I am thankful that James was able to live independently in spite of battling a terrible disease that people didn’t understand. My brother’s life will always be happy memories for me.

Julia Nation
Author: Julia NationEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Julia Nation grew up in the Humble area and taught for more than 30 years. Email comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Comments (2)

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Very well written. Very nice to hear how James was able to cope with the disease.

Allen
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Great tribute to your brother, and I love your posts!

Janette Welch
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