I have been losing my mom, bit by bit, for at least the last seven years, whenever it was that Alzheimer’s first began its dirty work. I lost the rest of her this afternoon as I stroked her hair and told her how much I loved her. Jennie and I said good-bye as she took her last breaths, hopeful that she heard our voices, felt our caresses, and knew in her heart, if not in her mind, how much she was loved, what a good mother and grandmother she was, and how many lives she touched with her gentle spirit. We told her that she would live in our hearts forever, and she will.
Beebe clung to life longer than any of us expected, surprising two sets of hospice carers over the last 27 days as we kept vigil, first at the Alzheimer’s facility where she had lived for almost three years and at the hospice care center where she died. (Beebe’s obituary.)
I have made Beebe’s struggle with Alzheimer’s a public one. Sharing it has helped me deal with the grief and frustration of losing her over the years. It was also the only way I could think of to fight back. Connecting with others who walk along the same path has given me strength. Knowing that our journey has helped others cope has kept me going. Reading the comments you have written over the last month especially have given me comfort.
My job as personal advocate for Beebe is now over. The part of my brain that had to keep track of her safety and well-being, the minutia of caregiving, can now be filled with other pursuits. Although I will continue to fight Alzheimer’s in her memory, it is time now for me to reconstruct that memory, to focus on the woman who was my mother, not just on the woman who had Alzheimer’s and needed my care.