Years ago, my friend said, "Tell your mother you love her now, before it is too late." My youth tricked my psyche into believing in forever. I thought I had all the time in the world.
My mother's mind was sharp as a tack, and she could converse about any topic. Better yet, she would put her thoughts into the most beautiful words on paper. When anyone needed something written for any occasion, people sought my mother's abilities, and they beamed with the final product. My mother eagerly welcomed the opportunity with zest, selflessly delving into it, flavoring it to perfection for the individual or organization's needs.
My mother passed away with Alzheimer's on Oct. 6, 2008, never realizing how loved she had been and how many lives she touched by her warmth, kindness, selflessness and generosity. Above all, she did not recognize her value and intelligence, which she always undermined.
Being an adopted only child, my mother devoted her life to me. No matter what I did, I received unconditional love. Over the past two and a half years, I showered my mother with gifts, words on paper that expressed my deep love for her, photos, jewelry — anything that would bare my gratefulness for all she meant to me throughout my life. Suddenly, the things that mattered most to my mother no longer had the symbolism and meaning they had in the past. She began writing herself simple reminders that we take for granted when our memory is intact.
I panicked as I watched my mother seep into a cloud of smoke, unable to find her way out. I prayed, bargained and pleaded with God to replace my mother as she had been before. That did not work, but God did care for both of us uniquely. Rather than taking my mother swiftly, which is something I know I could not handle, I was able to grieve over just the right amount of time.
My mother's car was a jalopy; however, for some strange reason she kept that right up to date. She loved going to the Y and to temple every Friday night. One night, I got the phone call I dreaded and refused to acknowledge the possibility of: My mother had been driving around for five hours without the heat on in the car and was in the ER. The neurologists told her not to drive anymore. They told her, "You will kill yourself or someone else." Her astounding answer was, "I do not care!"
She began to argue with me almost constantly. She repeatedly asked, "Do you see my house a mess? Do you see my clothes unkempt? Do you see me being unable to pay my bills? Do you see an empty refrigerator?" The answer to all these questions was, sadly, yes. My mother would say she was not living, just existing.
Her house in Queens was like an oven. I would put the fan on; she would shut it off. Between my hot flashes and the temperature of my mother's house being almost equivalent to Death Valley, both of us were dying a slow and tortured death. I finally realized and forced myself to remove the jalopy and place my mother in as close to a palace as one could get. My mother moved into the same facility as my 96-year-old aunt and her "big" sister.
I begged the facility not to send my mother to the hospital under any circumstances. However, I got another dreaded phone call: My mother had fallen due to her cardiac condition and went sent to the ER. She fell two more times in a single day while in the hospital, and that was it. She did not remain in the hospital long. I begged God to answer my plea to safeguard my mother's humanity and integrity. I did not want to let go, but I was ready, and God knew it.
If you are reading this and lucky enough to still have a loving mother, give whatever you can today because tomorrow may be too late. If you are one of the many people dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia, I pray for your strength and believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
If you would like to contact me, feel free to write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please address the subject as Alzheimer's or Dementia. God bless to all suffering with Alzheimer's and those caretakers struggling with this disease.