My mother’s mama had dementia, possibly from mini strokes. She lived across the country from us, so I only saw her a couple times in that stage of her life. Two of her daughters, my aunts, lived close by.
One cared for her needs when she was still living as a widow at home and then visited Grandma every day, after she was in the nursing home. Eventually she was visiting before and after work and during lunch breaks to spoon feed every meal for her mama until she passed away.
My other aunt, a beautiful woman in every way, visited sometimes until one day when she heard a nurse say to her mama, “Here’s your daughter.”
Grandma looked at my aunt and said, “She’s not my daughter!” This was so painful to my aunt that she left and never visited her mama again. This aunt was struggling herself with a long battle with cancer that lasted about twenty years. I’m not judging her for her decision. And maybe it didn’t matter to Grandma, if she didn’t remember her anymore any way. But it makes me think.
It makes me think about the precious bond there is between a person and a mother…Her womb is the first place of security, her heartbeats are the first sounds of comfort, her arms are the first embrace of love, her milk is the first warm nourishment. A mom is a child’s first love.
And a healthy mother’s love is like no other. I know there are some neglectful and abusive moms in the world, and my heart goes out to their children. But a healthy mother has a depth of love that she never knew until she became a mom. I have two biological children and four adopted, and God put a love for each of them in my heart that is unique to a mother’s love.
So, those of us who have had this healthy mother’s love and nurture are stunned when we see it faltering. When we see that our mom no longer recognizes us or the lifelong bond we’ve had it is heart wrenching. It is wrong. It is unthinkable.
But it’s real. Wrenching. Wrong. Unthinkable. But real. How will we respond?
It would be easier to stay away. And maybe it doesn’t matter to the person who doesn’t know us any longer. But what if it does? What if our presence gives comfort to our loved one in a way that they can just no longer express? And what if we can still make memories that we’ll look back at with gratitude some day?
I visited my mom yesterday. It was her birthday. She asked me who I was. She wondered what the birthday balloon was. I opened a singing birthday card for her and she smiled and asked me what it was. I’m losing her. Slowly and gradually losing my mama.
But while she is still here I will hold her hand whenever I can. I will memorize its soft skin and the slightly bent arthritic fingers. I will remember all the service and love those hands have given me over a lifetime.
While mom is still here I will hug her every chance I get. I will gently fold my arms around the soft and bending form of the mother who carried me in her womb, in her arms, and in her thoughts and prayers and heart for so many years.
While my mom is still here I will try to care for her as lovingly as she cared for me. I will pray for her. I will sing with her. I will try to make her smile.
While my mom is still here I will thank God for blessing me with her now…today. And I’ll thank Him for an eternity with her to come.