This is the first blog that I have been able to write since my mother passed away on May 6, 2016, succumbing to the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease. I woke up at 3:30am this morning, words spinning in my brain, so I decided to get out of bed and bake cookies for a fundraiser that I have been organizing all week. What makes this situation odd is that in general, I do not bake. The cookies are in the oven and I’m at the kitchen table allowing myself to let the words flow.
Perhaps I was naïve, but as much as I thought that I would be prepared for my mother’s death, I certainly was not. After years of witnessing both the cognitive and physical decline that the disease would bring, everyone, including myself, would say, “she’ll be in a better place once the day comes”. Well the day came and I was not ready to let her go.
I had been down this road before, accompanying my father on his final journey in 2005 when he died of congestive heart failure. But that was different. My father had suffered from a multitude of illnesses throughout my entire life and my mother had been his caregiver. We had both witnessed his suffering throughout so many years and he kept wishing for his day to come. And when it did, despite the tremendous sadness, there was peace.
Sitting beside my mother’s bedside, holding her hands, resting my head on her chest, and stroking her hair. Watching and counting every final raspy breath, witnessing the gasps of air, wondering when it would be her last. I have never ever experienced such profound grief in my life. I felt like a volcano about to erupt and so it did a couple of weeks following her funeral. I found myself consumed with anger towards the disease that had robbed her of her golden years. Despite her many years as a caregiver to my dad, my mother was a very healthy and vibrant woman, both physically and mentally…until Alzheimer’s disease. It took a few weeks for me to once again return to a place of acceptance and let go of my pain.
I was also not prepared for the personal “shift” that would take place inside of me. I had often heard from other women about how a mother’s death “can change you”, but never understood the feeling until now. I can only describe it as a sense of returning to my roots in order to understand my true purpose in life and continue surrounding myself with positive people and commitments. I have also become extremely intolerant to nonsense. The clock is ticking and life is going by way too fast.
Despite the grief, it has been quite a surreal privilege for me to personally accompany both of my parents on their final journey. The look of death does not haunt me, only the final goodbye.