It’s been two months since we lost Mom. Grief still catches me by surprise, and I guess this stage lasts a while. Something will happen that I want to tell her, or I’ll see a show she would have enjoyed. I’m also having anguished moments of second guessing; wishing we had known or done more. I try to push those thoughts away, and focus on the positive.
I can’t believe how brave my mother was in battling Alzheimer’s. With her brain turning to mush, and confusion clouding every waking moment, still she rallied and pushed and kept going. I remember vividly all the moments that sang and spoke of my mother’s courage. That feisty woman who could push through the fog of dementia and make us all laugh with her silly rhymes, Scottish accent and la dee da lady poses. It was a side of Mom I had never seen, and I hold these memories dear.
And then there’s the dream I had while sleeping by her side, maybe a week before she died. In the dream, she’s wearing her favorite color blue, dressed youthfully in a tunic and yoga leggings. She is glowing and beautiful; her face is wreathed in smiles and her eyes are twinkling with mischief. She is calling out to me excitedly as she skips away, waving her arm for me to follow. She looks so happy, so alive with vitality and the spirit of exploration. In my heart, I think this is her telling me she is going to be OK, wherever she is going.
Grief contains many emotions.
It’s different for everyone, I’m sure. Family caregivers will undoubtedly grieve profoundly, having bonded so closely with their loved ones. Aside from family, though, our professional caregivers also felt the loss deeply; they loved my mother sincerely and three of them were there until the end. I’m so grateful to them.
In fact, I’m struck by the amount of gratitude I feel these days, and my newly enlarged capacity to find joy in the ordinary. An unexpected, positive side effect of caregiving, perhaps? And with all the sadness that has pummeled us these past years, perhaps a need for equanimity.
Love. For my siblings, who were unbelievably supportive throughout, and continue to be now, as we focus on our father. I know they were glad that I took on the lion’s share of the work, but I could never have done it without their assistance. I don’t know how other family caregivers do it on their own! I’m in awe of people who are Super-Angels; I am not one of them.
Appreciation. To Diane Lauzon, of the Alzheimer’s Society of Laval. Another kind and compassionate soul who is dedicated to helping our seniors. She encouraged me to take the evening classes to learn more about Alzheimer’s, wherein I met other local family caregivers on the same journey. She hosted my parents for a visit, and helped me find services for them when she could. These are gracious people who have chosen a career in compassion, and I truly admire them.
Thankful. For Le Monastere des Augustins in Quebec City, which offers a “caregiver package” of two free nights in this beautiful monastic setting, complete with complimentary meals. They reached out and offered it to me as a previous guest, and I truly appreciated it. Similarly, when I retreated to a hotel in Kingston to write my mother’s obituary, the staff there kindly offered me their compassion rates, saving me half the cost of a two-night stay. If more companies and organizations were kinder to caregivers, the journey we are on would be so much easier…
Gratitude. To Susan Macaulay, who reached out to me three years ago and said, to someone who was a perfect stranger to her, “You sound exhausted. Let me come and stay with your parents, I can give you a few days of rest.” I remember I stopped sobbing long enough for my jaw to drop open. I could not believe the generosity of her spirit, especially since she had just lost her own dear mother. While I did not take Susan up on her offer that day, I have since called her many, many times — to unload my sorrows and listen to her always-kind advice. And I arranged for her to come and train our caregivers, so that we could all benefit from her wisdom. Everyone should have an Amazing Susan in their lives.
Gratitude is the antidote to sadness. Love is the solution to every conflict. And laughter? Well, that’s the best medicine of all. More on that in my next post.
“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.”
– Neale Donald Walsh