This week’s GBE2 prompt seems to have been chosen for me. So, though I haven’t posted in a while, I need to do this one now.
When I received the phone call last week from my mother’s assisted living telling me she had passed away, after the initial shock my first feeling was a sense of peace. A release, and relief that it was finally over for her—and for me. Seconds later the grief broke in and I cried in my husband’s arms, but when we went to see her in her bed, where she had passed quietly in her sleep, the only word, the only feeling, was peace.
Over the following week, with the sharpness of grief perhaps blunted by a nasty flu virus (a form of self-protection, maybe), my underlying sense of peace held me up through the planning, the wake and funeral, the consoling conversations and meals with family and friends.
This blessed sense of peace marked the end of a five-year ordeal that began with my brother’s death in 2008 and spiraled downward thereafter, that took us along the path of watching my mother disintegrate under dementia and doing everything we possibly could to care for her and try to make her content and her life as peaceful as possible in her final years. I feel blessed that we were able to do this, and that, when it finally became impossible for my husband and me to continue to care for her at home, we were able to find a wonderful facility to move her to, a place where they cared for her and loved her for the unique person she was.
I believe she was content there. She had finally gotten past the agony of knowing how her memory was deteriorating, past the pain of wondering where my brother was, the constant asking about her late siblings. She had finally come to place of peace in her mind and life, living within her own moment.
Though she was never a person to get involved in activities, the staff told me she enjoyed watching others play games or do crafts. They sent me a photo of her wearing silly glasses and making a face. They would take her to sit in the garden and enjoy the feeling of the sun on her face. And always, always they treated her with love: stopping to give her a hug or a kiss, to listen to her and try to get her what she wanted, celebrating her one hundredth birthday with her exactly a week to the day before she passed. They loved her spirit and sense of humor. And knowing all of that allowed me to recover some sense of peace in my own life.
I don’t yet know what the upcoming days and weeks will bring, whether this loss will suddenly hit me hard with a belated blow. As I told my friends and family, I feel as though I’ve been mourning her loss for the past few years, as the mother I knew gradually slipped away from me. By the time she was taken, there was very little left of her and really nothing for her to live for. Knowing this may make it a little easier for me than if I had lost her while she was still active and aware. I’ve been able to rebuild my life essentially without her while she was still living, yet she was always there, and she is so wound into me and everything I think and do that I know she will always be here…and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope that what she gave me will live on in me.
I will never stop hating the disease that devastated her brain, and I hope I’ll be able to remain firmly committed to working in the cause of curing Alzheimer’s and other dementias. But I accept this sense of peace as a gift from God, hoping it means he’s saying to me: well done. The burden has been lifted from both of us. The day-to-day worrying about her is over. I can breathe freely again. And she—and I—have our longed-for peace.