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The Blessings of Dementia

on November 7th, 2017 by Rebeccca

I started this post over four years ago while I was watching my mother slip away. It was going to be titled “The Long Good-bye” or “How my Mother Disappeared” or “How I Lost my Mother.” Something to infer that she was still alive, but no longer the mother that had raised me, sent emails to me, skyped with me. It sat in the draft folder of my blog ever since, with only this quote from the book  All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia:

“It’s called ambiguous loss,” she said. “Gone, but not gone. She is your mother, but not the mother you knew. If she had died, it would be easier to grieve the loss. It’s hard to do that when she’s sitting in front of you.”

Somehow I never managed to write more. I guess I became too comfortable, living in this small Saskatchewan town. Creating a life for myself here while my mother slowly, one brain cell at a time, slipped further away in the nursing home across the highway. I had given up on trying to “fix” her and instead tried to make her life more joyful by keeping her connected with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Sometimes she thinks I am her sister and asks about “Mom.” Other times I assume she knows who I am. Whoever she thinks I am, she always has a bright smile for me when I come to visit.

She hasn’t asked about Dad lately. At first I would explain that he had died.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“Well, we did, actually. You were at the funeral.”

Then, when I realized that she was having to grieve every time she found out that he had died, I would just tell her that he wasn’t here right now. That he knew where she was. And then I would change the subject and she would forget that she had asked.

She is still, after four years, confused about where she lives. When we are in her room, with all the photos of our family, she thinks she is visiting me in my room. And when I say goodbye to her she gives me a distraught look and asks what she is supposed to do. It’s difficult to explain that this is where she lives and the nice care aides will help her with whatever she needs.

While Galen was in the respite room of the nursing home, I would often bring Mom into his room so that we could be together. She would look at him with concern, understanding, I guess, that he wasn’t well. She tried to save food for him from her dinner plate, spooning it onto a napkin, because she noticed that he wasn’t eating.

Now when I go to visit her, I will often remind her that Galen has died.

“Who?”

“Galen. My husband.”

“Oh. I’m so sorry.” And she will reach out to take my hand. Sometimes tears come to her eyes. Sometimes she will ask how he died.

For those few moments, she is my mother again. Reaching out to me in love. Trying to comfort me.

And she is a great comfort to me. She is an anchor for me as I find my way. She is always there, waiting for me with her brilliant smile. And she doesn’t notice when I tell her the same story over and over.

Thank you, Mother, for being there for me when I need you most. You are indeed a blessing.

| Posted in Grieving, My Mom

4 Responses to “The Blessings of Dementia”

  1. Claire Botkin
    November 7th, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Your writing touches my heart. I feel I lived a small part of my life in tandem with yours while our mothers were in the home in Nokomis. I specifically recall the day of your father’s funeral how strong you all were. I am so sorry for all the losses you have suffered and hope that you will have many years of contentment filled with good memories — past, present and future.

  2. Linda Emmert
    November 7th, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Each blog, it seems you must be gasping, trying to get your breath as days go by and new feelings and fears arise. Don’t know if it helps but please know you are loved and thought about…that silent people out here are grieving with you in the best way we know how. Rooting for you to move thru this veil and emerge strong again!
    Love you, Becky

  3. Jeanne Blackmon
    November 8th, 2017 at 11:41 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I lived it for 19 years with my Dad – and while it hurt living it, I wouldn’t trade for the memories of time spent together, just loving. Now my Mom is slowly slipping – not really gone yet but not the confident, capable, independent woman she was. I treasure the moments of togetherness, the phone conversations, and the days spent together.
    Love is real and vital in our lives. Thank God for His great love.

  4. Rachel Hickman
    November 9th, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Becky, thank you for sharing those difficult moments, but at the same time, treasured. So thankful for those around us who care and can join you in the process of life and living the ups and downs. Blessings.

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