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Gloria Richmond says husband made her stronger than ever

Gloria Richmond feeds her husband, David. Pureed foods

Gloria Richmond feeds her husband, David. Pureed foods are best for him at this stage in his Alzheimer's disease. The food trays are color-coded, and blue means David can still feed himself, too. (Dec. 17, 2007) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

On June 25, 2009, Gloria Richmond's husband, David, died. His health had been deteriorating for several weeks and staff at the nursing home advised Gloria that it would not be long. She stayed at the hospital for five straight days and nights. At the prodding of the nursing home staff, she finally went home on the evening of the 24th to get a good night's sleep. The following morning, when Gloria arrived at David's room, he looked at her and smiled. Gloria, who had not seen him smile in months, sobbed.

The staff, who Gloria credits with giving her an enormous amount of support during those days, encouraged her to talk to David. So Gloria pulled him close and began whispering in his ear, telling him that it was OK, that he could let go. Later that afternoon, David's breathing grew slow and heavy. Gloria embraced him and watched as her husband drew his last breaths.

In the weeks after his death, Gloria wasn't quite sure what to do with herself.

"I miss not going to the home, that routine," she said. "There's an emptiness now, almost like retiring from a job."

But she slowly began taking care of herself again, going to doctors, eating better and pampering herself with manicures.

In August her beloved dog Nina died. Gloria was crushed but it wasn't long before she got a new puppy that keeps her on her feet. She's also started volunteering at David's nursing home, once again boarding a bus and bringing her crayons and coloring books. She does activities and exercises with the dementia patients and said she hopes to be able to feed them some day. Her work there is fulfilling, she said.

"I think it's helpful," she said. "It fills the void. I know David is around me and I know he would have wanted me to do something to fill the emptiness. I'm stronger than ever now and he's giving me the strength."