Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love. For some, finding your one true love can be difficult, but Jackie and Don Sebastian (84 and 85, respectively) knew right away they were meant for one another. They met at the young ages of 15 and 16 in Baton Rouge, La. Jackie invited Don to her freshman class hayride and while there, they shared their first kiss. The two would date for a few more years before eloping in 1952 at the ages of 18 and 19. The two kept it a secret from their families for a short period of time, but after Don’s parents found out they decided to have a traditional wedding at a local church. Their love story spans more than six decades of career changes, traveling and raising two children along the way. Don will never forget the memories they created, but that’s not the case for Jackie. She was diagnosed with dementia and recently moved to HarborChase of the Park Cities (a premier senior living community) to receive quality care. Don also moved to the community to be close to his wife, but she doesn’t know he lives there. He visits her often, and while it’s tough, his love for her is stronger now than ever before.
“Dementia is very hard on everyone, but just because she has this disease doesn’t mean I love her less. Our love will never fail,” said Don. “I recognized Jackie’s memory starting to decline about five years ago. At the time, I was able to still care for her on my own. After I had surgery last year, I realized I needed help, so we moved to HarborChase of the Park Cities. We tried living in the same apartment, but her dementia progressed and it was time for her to move to memory care. Our love has never gone away, but she can’t know I live at the community. Each time I see her I’m thankful she remembers me, but she always insists on going home. She doesn’t realize this is her home. If I go too often, it will be harder for her to adjust and improve, and that takes a toll on me. I am grateful for the brief time I have with her when I visit. She has been the love of my life for 68 years, and the hard times make me stronger.”
Don was a businessman, and the couple moved between Dallas and Baton Rouge for several years before he and Jackie opened a company in Dallas in 1978. They had a successful career before deciding to sell the company in 2001 and retire. They enjoyed many years together before he noticed a change in Jackie. While it progressed slowly over the years, he feels she’s doing better at HarborChase of the Park Cities. He holds onto the memories from the last 68 years as he helps his wife through this disease. He also wants people to educate themselves about dementia because it can happen to anyone.
“Even though I am not able to see her every day, I know she loves me, and I love her. Each time I see her she is as happy as a lark and we hug and kiss. That’s something I cherish,” said Don. “It was her birthday recently, and each year I buy her two dozen roses. I know deep down she remembers that. I already have her chocolates and a card ready for Valentine’s Day. I still plan to celebrate our love because nothing can replace it. I just want people to not take things for granted, because one day your loved one may not remember the same precious memories you do. Our love is still there. I see the spark in her eye when I am with her. It may not be easy, but I am thankful to HarborChase for accommodating us and supporting me through this difficult time.”
“The love between Jackie and Don is undeniable,” said Molly Meyer, director of life enrichment. “He loves and supports his wife so much, and it’s inspiring to see. We are thankful the couple chose HarborChase of the Park Cities to provide Jackie the best care possible and be a home for Don. Our memory care floor has a compassionate and dedicated team that focuses on each resident. Jackie and Don have a one-of-a-kind love story, and he truly goes above and beyond for his wife.”