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Sunday, May 8, 2011

In Memory of My Mom



In memory of my mom I am re-running this post I wrote about my mother's illness and its effect on the final years of our relationship. I still think about her all throughout the day and miss her, endlessly.

It has been two years since Alzheimer's took its final ravage on on my mother's brain and body. I spent eight years, day in and out, with a lot of help, caring for my mom.

My mom on High School Graduation day
Caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease is like being back in school. Everyday you are learning more, and trying to remember what you have learned in order to apply it to the next lesson. You are constantly being challenged and tested by your loved one. Pop quizzes are the best, and you are often caught unprepared.

Nancy Reagan's quote is very true,"When you have met one person with Alzheimer's disease, you have met one person with Alzheimer's disease". Every patient has a slightly different presentation and every presentation changes by the day.  What I tell people who are fumbling through the early stages of care and feeling like they cannot do anything right to protect their loved one is: "The only plan is to plan for no plan to work".

It will sound odd, but my fondest memories of my mom are during her years with Alzheimer's. She became a kinder, gentler mom. Happy to be helped. Happy when I covered for her in conversation, or told her "I always forget...".Happy to laugh. Happy to have her children there, almost everyday.  She lived in the moment and enjoyed many moments. Yes, she had her battles, especially in the early stages, asking me "Why haven't I slipped away yet, why do I know this is happening?". My mom spent her last eight years with her children. Had she been healthy, we probably would have visited two or three times  a year. Instead, we moved her close to all of us, and few days went by when one of her children was not with her. All four of her children became bonded in the commitment to make her days happy and safe.

My mom had the brightest blue eyes you have ever seen. People would stop just to comment on how beautiful she and her eyes were. They shone bright and sparkled through the disease process, while the eyes of others fell dull. At the moment of her passing, after seeming to be asleep for over a day, she opened her sparkling eyes with her last breath. All four children around her; I believe it was her message that her light shines on in all of us. We became close siblings because of Alzheimer's disease, we became more patient because of Alzheimer's disease, we learned how to selflessly give to others because of Alzheimer's disease, and we learned of the healing power of laughter when you just do not know what to do next.

During the long goodbye to our mom, we became better people in the world. We graduated Alzheimer's University with honors. I thank my mom for living through the long goodbye with graciousness, humor, and trust. I thank my siblings for loving so unconditionally. I thank God that we could all find the positive in a situation that many cannot bear. This was my mom's final lesson to her children.

 My mom and her sisters


Thank you for reading,
Norah