I remember when you would sit
in your silken pink chaise
overlooking the glittery lake
with your book and those glasses
that you always misplaced
the bedazzled ones
with the sparkles and bright colors
smoking was a favorite pastime
that eased your nerves,
yet, it never ceased to get on mine
I would lie stretched out on your big bed with the pink silken comforter
and we would talk about
Your voice was music,
bright and golden tones,
rising and falling
We’ve begun to clear out mom’s belongings out of her home. It’s been a little over 8 years since mom lived in this house, this room, and it’s waited all that time for us to unearth her belongings and treasures. So much that she had to leave behind, as she had no room in her tiny rooms at the nursing home. So many clothes, and shoes, and purses, and memories left behind. And I have waited all this time because I was not ready. I could not face this task earlier than now, because she was still with us. It felt to much like a betrayal, like a slap in the face, like anticipatory grief.
Yet, that is what dementia is…anticipatory grief and ambiguous loss, always lurking and lingering around waiting for the other shoe or memory to drop. For eleven long years, I said goodbye in incremental ways. Like death by paper cuts, tiny wounds of attrition with every new loss. The day I had to finally take away her beloved phone, that connected her to the outside world. The time I finally took away her adored robes, because they would get stuck in her wheel chair wheels. Or the hundreds of times I would patiently explain where she was and why, even though I knew she wouldn’t remember 10 minutes later.
And then, finally, on that last and final day…after the pastor and all of us prayed over her body…and we, along with all of the nurses on duty, slowly ushered her out to the hearse, did I think “You finally get to leave this place.” Because, even though she had many moments of joy and comfort there, for her, it was never home.
I always said I was strong, with a heart of armor as I went through the motions and routines. Yet, there were days that my armor cracked and shattered, and I had to leave. Or there were days and weeks that I had to stay away because my armor was still shattered, lying all over the place, and I was to raw and depleted.
I lived with the ever present, constant guilt of not visiting her on those days of depletion and sorrow. I slowly and repeatedly learned the need to forgive myself, and her, again and again. And it is something I am still learning and will be learning until I meet her once again.
And on that day, when we finally meet again, I believe we will be made whole and we will finally know what all the heartache and sorrow and pain was for… and we will finally be free to love and live at last in our true home.