When my mother was diagnosed with dementia, major concerns came into my life. Not just her care, but how our relationship would change.
1. Whereas before she was my lifeline, now she can barely retain the names of my children, her grandchildren, and forgets the names of her great-grandchildren. The core of her personality is still there, loving and supportive. But when your memory is fading, the context fades too. We can talk about small increments of life–like what happened in the last hour of her day or maybe a bit of what happened in mine, but if I get too detailed, she pulls away and asks that we talk about this at another time.
2. That means we will never talk about it because her poor brain cannot hold lots of facts at once. She cannot support the tension of my day because she cannot take it in and understand what it is. But we can sometimes talk about the biggest things in our life together, like my father’s death and that she raised the three children by herself, because that is the mainstay of who she is and that is still clear in her mind.
3. All of this weighs on me as I move closer to losing her and wondering what life really is. When she’s gone, she’s gone. My memories of her will be there, but I don’t know if we will ever connect again. My religious faith says we will–but there is again no context for that, no tool to use to understand it. You hang out there in the ether hoping for some shred of belief.
4. Mortality is part of who we are and none of us, except maybe those we call saints, deal very well with it. Ironically, I have talked to my dead father all my life and he is the reason I lean toward belief in something beyond this life. He’s gotten me out of lots of tangles–or someone has. It’s intimate, the talk I have with him. And baffling at the same time. Does he hear any of it or am I just creating some healing-type personna that I can talk to instead of paying a licensed psychologist.
So I’m having lots of thoughts because of her dementia; I am facing the question about the timing of my mother’s death. And the other one? What’s beyond her last breath, and my own?
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