Here I sit on a Tuesday evening, legs covered in my favorite cozy blanket and fire crackling in the chiminea. Middle of August in Ohio, and the thermometer reads 72 degrees. The sun is beginning to set, and the crisp air smells and feels like fall.
Making Sense of the Senseless
I know exactly what I want to write, yet the words won’t come, so I gather some more wood for the fire, check to see how my brewing tea is coming along, and watch the dog putter around the yard. Still no words… just lots of jumbled thoughts and feelings that I can’t seem to cobble together into anything that makes sense.
This week marks eight months since my mom’s passing. That’s 32 weeks, 240 days, 5,760 hours – give or take. In a way it seems like an eternity, yet wasn’t it just yesterday that I sat next to her bed holding her hand, stroking her head, and praying for God to tell me what to do to bring her some peace. Those last three weeks were sheer hell – there’s no other way to describe it. No human being should have to suffer the way she suffered.
With each passing day, I realize even more just how much our Alzheimer’s journey changed my life forever. I know now that it never really ends. You go in as one person, and come out as someone completely different. The things that used to matter BA (before Alzheimer’s) seem so irrelevant now. You’ve finally figured out that you’re not immortal. When they say, “life’s short,” they mean it.
Take the Good, Leave the Bad
Oh how I wish I had known nine years ago what I know today. There are so many things I would have done differently, but we do our best with the knowledge we have. I remind other caregivers of that constantly to help ease the guilt that comes naturally with the role. Yet somehow, it’s difficult for me to apply the same logic to my own situation.
Long ago, someone told me to “take the good, and leave the bad.” I can’t think of another example where that is more applicable. When you love someone with Alzheimer’s, you witness the unthinkable, and you feel pain the depth of which you never knew possible. Dwelling on those things, though, would ultimately destroy you. So you focus instead on the fact that the experience taught you to love more deeply than ever before.
Given a choice, no one would willingly embark on an Alzheimer’s journey, but when it’s over, you’re left with newfound compassion, perspective, and purpose. It gives you an appreciation for the little things that perhaps would have gone unnoticed before. It brings you together to form an unbreakable bond with people you would have otherwise never met. You will help some of those people, and some of them will help you. Neither of you will ever be the same.
When It’s All Said and Done
The truth is, I loathe this disease with every fiber of my being. There are days when the entire journey still seems like an awful nightmare, and I can’t believe my mom is gone. It’s been nine years since I’ve been able to sit down and have a real conversation with her, and that makes me downright angry. But focusing my energy there would be a mistake.
“Take the good, leave the bad.” The unlikely friendships, a new depth of emotion and understanding, an unspoken – and unparalleled – bond between my mom and I, and a reason for existing here on earth unlike any I’ve experienced aside from being a mother myself.
I wouldn’t have chosen it, but at the end of the day, I’m a better person for having traveled that horrific road. And I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. You are, too. Hold onto that – let it carry you through your darkest days.