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Book Spotlight: 'Moving Miss Peggy
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Guy Penrod is preparing for a European tour this summer and recording a second album of hymns . He shares his thoughts about Robert Benson ’s latest book , the story of Peggy Benson ’s struggle with the onset of dementia.

by Robert Benson

(Abingdon Press)

I love Miss Peggy, whom I’ve known as the consummate Southern lady — always hospitable, with a smile and big hug. Moving Miss Peggy was hard to read, but moving and wonderful. It gave me a fresh realization of the fear and apprehension that must go along with walking into dementia. The book begins with Peggy as a young mom, sitting with her kids on the beach as they watch a storm approach. Then it’s buttoned up at the end with the same type of analogy — the oncoming storm of growing old and dementia.

Robert Benson has a very earthy way to tell this difficult story about his mother, expressing hard truth and yet keeping a laugh in there. He communicates that this isn’t all there is — that’s what kept hitting me. To paraphrase a quote from a French philosopher, we are not merely human beings who have spiritual experiences, but rather spirit beings having a very temporal human experience. That point comes through in this book — to remember what’s important. Especially in American culture, we are so inundated with material things. From the marketing that we’re all subjected to, to our media and workplaces and such … this story is a good reminder that those things are so fleeting.

Reading this book was also cathartic for me — I hadn’t cried deeply in a long while. I haven’t dealt with dementia in my family, but Angie and I walked with my mom through many difficult health issues until she passed in 2007 from congestive heart failure. Then we gave Angie’s dad, who had multiple sclerosis, hospice care at our house until he passed in 2010. It’s a heavy load to carry, and we didn’t have much help, plus we had eight kids and I had an extensive travel schedule with the Vocal Band. I was operating in triage mode during those years — my emotions were kind of held in check, because I had to seize the moment and just do what needed to be done. Obviously I’ve shed tears, but it was good to connect again with that as I read this book and thought of Miss Peggy, my mom and Angie’s dad.

We have to cherish those we love; it reminds me of that song, “The Living Years” — we have to “say it loud, say it clear” while they’re alive, focusing on what’s important while we have this particular life.