Have you ever just kept moving forward during a stressful time instead of letting the reality of a situation engulf you? Psychologists say that “denial” is a really comfortable place to be – and it’s true. After my mom died 5 years ago, we were busy with our B & B and exploring our new community of Smith Mountain Lake. I became quite involved in an array of lake activities. Since Mom had lived a distance from us anyway, it was easier thinking of her as away instead of dead! But on the occasions that I wanted to call her to share some life event, I would remember! Of course this was just a way of dealing with reality short term.
While she was ill, I kept an intermittent journal and saved many of my emails between my siblings and me as we communicated about her caregiving in her final years. Mom had Alzheimer’s Disease.
It took me until this year to review the notes and emails about her care to write her story, but I did it. And in writing her story, I was able to not only deal with her disease and ultimate death, but work my way out of denial. In the past, I have published children’s books (available on Amazon), but this one was different. It was emotionally trying to go through the notes and relive each event. I pushed to get it done by her birthday (March 22) and indeed I did. I have shared it now with my sister and brother as gifts and also shared it with Mom’s best friend. I gave each of them 2 copies and asked them to pass the book along to someone else who could benefit from reading about the ups and downs of caring for a loved one with memory issues. A few people locally have purchased my book and shared with me that they too, could relate to Mom’s story because of their current or past situations.
If you are in the midst of caregiving or know someone who is, please consider reading Mom’s story and telling me how you can relate. Then give the book to someone else. It is available in hard copy and by e-book. We all need support when facing the realities of losing a loved one. This was just my way of (finally) dealing with it.
The book is entitled, Sweetness Begets Sweetness. Why that title? Mom used to say it to us when we were kids to get us to be “nice” to our siblings. It was one of many platitudes to get us to behave! I am sure you have your own family sayings that you remember!
Family is one of the most important things in life (to me) and preserving the stories and memories may be more important to me in my later years than I know. There is much to be known yet about how Alzheimer’s disease is acquired and how it may be passed through genetics. So in the meantime, we learn what we can and share what we learn!
Postscript: After reading this book, my brother wrote this memory of Mom.
9 April 2019
My sister Karen wrote a book called “Sweetness Begets Sweetness” about the fading of my Mom via Alzheimer’s. As Mom’s third born and only son I am compelled to add a couple of comments. Karen did a magnificent job of capturing most of our feelings and memories. Karen has boundless energy of which I had just a bit. Great job Sis!
Lonely screamed out at me when I first read Karen’s rendition of Mom’s life. I had to read it twice to absorb the monumental woman that Karen describes. Mom, like all of us experience moments of loneliness, it is part the human condition. Her last few years, however, must have been pure lonely torture…for a while, until she no longer understood what loneliness meant. Seems we (Sherry, Karen and Me) became lonelier as we watched Mom’s mind slowly wither away. That rock of a Mom was going away.
In her day, she was one hell of a resource; the Google of the day. One quick call and she had an answer or at least some advice. When I was really young and did something really stupid she would send me after a switch off the old willow tree out front. Normally they were too small and I’d have to go back and get a bigger one. She “blistered” the backs of my legs bright red. This was cruel and unusual punishment, at the time, but she still had her mind. Later we graduated to rulers until they kept breaking, then fly swatters but they kept bending, finally “wait until your father gets home.” But she still had her mind. Later I realized this was some good old southern discipline.
Mom also taught me how to be a gentleman: open the door for the ladies or the infirm, walk on the outside on the sidewalk less a car tire splash the lady, yes Sir, and yes Ma’am. She drilled the multiplication tables into my thick head for years (I was the slowest learner of the kids, still am). Yet now, how I long for those days of interaction and learning.
Mom loved us all so much. I know we (mostly me) filled her mind with consternation and “good grief-ed-ness.” She loved more than anyone else could have!
So, as she was slowly taken from us, we hurt exponentially. The vacuum and loneliness was deafening. She was confused when we had to remove her from her home and into a professional care facility; even there with lots of people she was lonely and then lonely and lonelier. The harder we tried to fill her mind with something she could remember, the less she remembered. Before too long, she was but a shell. That rock of a Mom was almost gone.
Seconds before her last breath she whispered in my ear, “I love you son.”
M. G. Brown