Arts, Community

Lockdown life poems a money-earner for Alzheimers

Author Gavin Kerr is using his book of poems to help raise money for Alzheimers Marlborough: Photo: Paula Hulburt.

A Blenheim man whose wife died shortly before lockdown has written a book which will help raise money for those who made her last months brighter.

Gavin Kerr’s wife Elizabeth (known as Liz) suffered from Alzheimers and died on 17 March.

And his poetic bid to record life as he experienced it under lockdown level 4 is set to raise money for Alzheimers Marlborough.

The former school principal and academic says the support they had from staff at Alzheimers Marlborough was vital following Liz’s diagnosis.

On each day of lockdown, Gavin penned a poem which he has published into a book, Under Lockdown, with a proportion of the proceeds from the sale going to the local branch.

Gavin Kerr and wife Elizabeth were married for 62 years. Photo: Supplied.
Gavin Kerr and wife Elizabeth were married for 62 years. Photo: Supplied.

The first poem, dedicated to Liz, was written for her service sheet used at a private family farewell at Geoffery T Sowman Funeral Directors.

“I think that was what prompted me. It helped a great deal, there’s no doubt about that.

“Some days I had to sit down and think about what I was going to do but most were done while walking up the Wither Hills or along the Taylor River.

‘I’ve always been interested in writing but haven’t published any of my personal work before.”

Liz, a fellow academic who spoke fluent French, was diagnosed with Alzheimers early in 2019.

For the pair, who were married for 61 years, it was a devastating blow.

“Once that word, Alzheimers, comes up, you’ve crossed the Rubicon and can’t go back.” he says.

Following the diagnosis, Gavin got in contact with Alzheimers Marlborough.

The support and information they provided was critical through a difficult process, he says.

Liz was moved to Maxwell Lifecare rest home in Blenheim after congestive heart failure complications meant she could no longer be cared for at home.

Gavin too needed a break after months of broken sleep and stress.

“You try to put yourself in their shoes but that’s not easy to do,” he says.

The couple’s three children arrived just before travel restrictions were imposed to say goodbye.

“The staff [at Maxwell Lifecare] were fabulous, you couldn’t have asked for anything more; they’re like family.”

Writing the 34 poems proved to be very cathartic, Gavin says.

“It’s a good release. There is a mix of poems in there; some are amusing and others more serious.

“In some way, it’s a bit like watercolour painting; you do it, let it mature and go back to it.”

The $25 book is available to buy at Alzheimers Marlborough on 8 Wither Road in Blenheim or by emailing [email protected]

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