She Didn’t Say Good-Bye: August 21, 2014
Never say good-bye because good-bye means going away and going away means forgetting.
—J. M. Barrie
My mom didn’t say good-bye to me. We didn’t have that “inevitable” conversation in which she told me everything she wanted to tell me before she could no longer tell me anything. Somehow we progressed through the stages so quickly that before she or I realized it, she was no longer able to tell me good-bye.
Sometimes when people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, they write letters, they video themselves, they plan ahead for the time when their minds are no longer true to who they are, and their bodies wait in anticipation to get “the signal.”
That was not Mom’s way. We actually talked very little about the moment when I would be without her. She knew it would come; she was no fool. But while there was time, Mama lived. She took every opportunity to retell stories from her life because the past was far clearer to her than the present. She made funny jokes and pushed all of our buttons just to make sure we were all still who her heart told her we were. We obliged and often responded in our truest form, especially Zach.
Mom took every opportunity to remind us this disease touching her had come through the hands of her God. One day, while she was having lunch with me, she reminded me again (Alzheimer’s patients do lots of reminding) of this truth, to which I replied, “Mama, I know that is true and I believe it with all my heart, but it does not mean that I am not a little pissed about it and a whole lot sad about it!”
Standing at my kitchen sink, she burst into tears and cried, “It is shitty! Oh, it is so very shitty, isn’t it?”
We held each other and cried, and that was the closest we ever came to saying good-bye.
I can imagine now better than before her mama heart would never let her resign herself to the fact that she would have to go on and leave her crew behind. As a mom, I know my children will always be just that: children. No matter their ages or positions, I’ll always be their mama and they will always be my children. The word children evokes the need for care and keeping, and what had always been true for her was morphing into something unknown. She had always been the one to care and keep, but now, for the first time ever, we were caring for and keeping her. In her own way, though, she kept caring for and keeping us by fighting diligently and never letting us see her resign herself to the disease. Some might call that process denial, others self-preservation.
While Mama never officially said good-bye, she left me with an entire lifetime of memories to remind me of the way she felt about me. There is no doubt in my mind my mother adored me, and secretly I was her favorite. (It’s a joke, everyone. Relax) My mom sacrificed her entire life to see we were cared for and kept. It wasn’t always perfect, and she would be the first to tell you, but she was there. And every day, as I wipe the table for the tenth time, sweep the floor for the fifth time, make the twenty-first meal in seven days, fold another load of laundry, chop another onion for ground beef, and wash another dish, I hear her reminding me, “Be here! Live on! Don’t miss this!”
Thanks for fighting, Mom. Thanks for living!
Link to book: Living In The Storm