About a week ago my daughter and I were sitting out on the deck with my 95 year old mother-in-law, enjoying conversation. Mom got restless and looked concerned.
“Are you ok?” I asked
She looked over at the door to the house and seemed about to get up. “It seems like there should be a place where I could go and be with family and talk.”
“You are,” I said. “We are your family and we are talking with you.” But she couldn’t comprehend that. She went in the house, looking for her family.
This is very common for us these days. I imagine it is for many families dealing with dementia. I remember being unknown by my own mom, and how painful that was. I’m grateful I journaled and wrote things down at the time, so I can look back and reflect on the lessons I learned then…
July 10, 2013
I walk into my parents’ house and see Mom sitting in her rocking chair. “How’s my mama?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” Mom replies. “I haven’t seen her in years.”
“How did you sleep last night?” I ask.
Mom gives me a questioning look and says, “I laid down.”
A little bit later I say, “I love you, Mom.”
She sweetly answers with her most common reply to that these days, “Thank you.”
But later in the afternoon I say it again. “I love you, Mom.”
She answers, “I love you, too…” My heart smiles. And then she adds, with a thoughtful look of concern, “I hope.”
She hopes she loves me. She’s not sure. How could she be, I guess, when at least half the time she doesn’t know my name and never seems to know I’m her daughter?
What is that like to live in a world where you’re not sure who anyone is? Where you’re not sure who loves you or who is a stranger? Where you’re not even sure who you love? What is it like to be in the house you’ve lived in for more than fifty years, but not recognize it and not feel at home there?
What is that like? No wonder Mom hollers and cries sometimes. What courage it must take to live through each day never being sure where you are or who you are with. Does she feel like a stranger in a strange land all day? How does she keep going?
I see her get short flashes of clarity here and there in the day. But they are becoming less frequent. They are melting away, like the last heaps of snow in the spring. And we don’t know when they’ll be gone.
Every time she remembers my name, I wonder if it will be the last time. I want to hold onto her. I wonder what the last conversation was that we had, when she was still fully cognizant she was my mom. I unknowingly let the treasure of that conversation slip away.
And as I think of it, I realize we will seldom know when we are having a last conversation with anyone. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Jesus so often repeated the commandment, “Love one another.” Now is the time to love. Now is the time to love my mom and all the people God has blessed me with.
Now is the time to love with purpose and intention and delight. And as we’re loving others, we can rest in the peace that Jesus is preparing a place for us. A place for all who know Him and love Him and believe in Him. A place of healing and restoration. A place where minds and memories are strong again and where there is never a last conversation.