Making the Most of Mother’s Day When Mom has Alzheimer’s

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Looking back at this Mother’s Day memory from four years ago…I feel again the ache of missing mama, even when she was with me. But now that she’s actually gone, I see even more the tender blessings in these moments of connection and affection we shared…

Mother’s Day is such a bittersweet thing when your mama is still with you physically but doesn’t know you. And doesn’t know your name, or even how to pronounce it. And doesn’t remember she’s your mom…

Mama is still here and I want to make her happy for Mother’s Day. I want to make her happy always. I want to make the most of this time we still have together.

I look at the cards in the store and know they will mean nothing to her. But somehow I want to give her one anyway. I guess because I still can. I pick out one that sings a happy song when it’s opened. Maybe that will make her smile.

I find her favorite candy—caramel chocolate pecan- and buy a couple bags of bite-sized ones. I drive to her house and it’s a beautiful sunny day. Maybe I could take her for a ride, I think. But I know how stressed out and fearful she gets trying to get into the car and I don’t want to put her through that. And I think of all the days I wasted when she still liked to get in the car, and I wish I’d taken better advantage of them.

I wish I’d done more to show Mama how special she is to me.

But I’ll do what I can now. I sit with her on the love seat. “Hi Mama.”

“Are you my mama?” she says.

“No, you’re my mama. I’m Cheryl.”

“Oh, Churl. Okay.”

I give her the card. She doesn’t know how to take it out of the envelope, so I do. She sets the card down. “Open it, Mama.” But she can’t figure out how to do that, so I help her. The card sings and she looks mildly interested, and then tries to stick it in-between the cushions, so I set it aside.

I give her a piece of candy. She puts it in her mouth. “Do you like it?”

“Yes, I do. It’s good.”

I cuddle with her and give her more pieces of candy from time to time, as Dad listens to the news. She keeps telling me she likes the candy. And then she gets drowsy and takes a tiny nap, her head resting on my shoulder.

When she wakes she pats my arm. Little gentle pats. I kiss her cheek and tell her I love her.

Oh, Mama…the ways I can express love to you and give you smiles are dwindling away. I pray you know  how loved you are. I hope you feel it, even if your mind can’t grasp it.

And I try to imagine the first time we’ll see each other in heaven—when your mind will be healthy and all will be restored. And what will that be like, to have you look at me and know who I am again and know that you’re my mom?

And I think what a precious gift it is to have a mom who knows who you are and who knows she loves you.  I’m thankful I had such a beautiful one for so many years. And I’m grateful to know, that because of Jesus and His sacrificial love, I’ll have her back again someday and for eternity.

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on


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