Alzheimer's Association Celebrity Champion Christina Chang currently plays Dr. Audrey Lim on ABC’s “The Good Doctor.” She lost her mother in January after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.
My mom, Ruth, was an elementary school educator and later a guidance counselor at the Taipei American School, a position that still exists 40 years later. Her love of kids was profound. She loved to laugh, eat, dance, travel and ride rollercoasters. Every holiday was a big deal with Mom. Anyone who knew her greatly anticipated what Halloween costume she’d show up in each year. And it wasn’t just Halloween night; she would wear head-to-toe orange and black outfits leading up to October 31.
But Christmas was what our family called her ‘favorite favorite’ holiday.
My mom was joyful, playful and full of life. The entire month of December, she would wear jingle bell earrings, or a wreath necklace that lit up. Her lifelong love affair with Disney oozed into the holiday, too, through many of her accessories. Her parents took her to Disneyland the year the park first opened, and she fell in love with it. When she retired, she worked there part time as a greeter so she could see the excitement and wonder on everyone’s faces. She was a kid at heart.
A Defining Moment
The first time my brother and I had a serious conversation about taking our mom to see a doctor happened after my baby shower. My mom, always vibrant, vivacious, social and the center of attention was disconnected and socially awkward, her sentences trailing, zero eye contact. Then, just three days before my daughter was born, on October 1, 2012, we found out Mom had Alzheimer's.
A diagnosis is overwhelming for the entire family. I felt blindsided, and since I had no time to process what was going on, I jumped into action mode. I went directly to my local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association
to get information about the disease and doctors in my area, and attended a support group.
‘Who's going to have power of attorney?’ ‘Where is our mom going to live?’ ‘Who is in charge of her daily care?’ There is just so much to think about and plan for. A lot of people who are in the position of caring for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s may feel alone, or in the dark. Getting support
was important to help bring me into the light, allowing for a new springboard for family conversations.
Remembering Mom This Christmas
I cared for my mom for more than eight years. As caregivers, we trust our instincts and care for our loved ones the way we think they would want to be cared for. We advocate on behalf of them. We educate, raise funds for Alzheimer’s research and share our stories — because we know the more we share, the more change we can create.
That is why I am telling my mother’s story.
This is my first Christmas without her. Firsts of any kind are particularly difficult when the ones we love leave us. But grieving her doesn’t take away from the gratitude I have for all she taught me and my family, and all the joy she gave us. The holiday season was no exception; she could make The Grinch grin.
I hope you spread kindness as a way of paying it forward this season. May every holiday sweater and every pair of Christmas mouse ears make you smile—a big infectious smile, like my mom’s. For me, I will hang lights, listen for the sound of jingle bells and remember her joy, which I carry in my heart, always.
About: Born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, Christina Chang currently stars on ABC's “The Good Doctor.” Learn more by visiting her Twitter and Instagram.