A friend's mother died earlier this week at age 85, after a ten year struggle with Alzheimer's disease.
My mother is 86.
This morning I went into Mom's room to perform my usual morning chores; I opened the shades, changed the date on her whiteboard, and filled the carafe with freshly brewed coffee. I used the TV remote to select the "easy listening" music station, and adjusted the thermostat to Mom's preferred 72 degree level. With the changing season and fluctuating temperatures, it is difficult to keep the room temperature just right; and it doesn't occur to Mom to put on a sweater if she is cold or to open the window if she is too warm. Furthermore, it is an effect of her Alzheimer's to make her believe that however she feels in the moment she is in is how it always is. So if she is too warm (or too cold) she feels exasperated and upset because she thinks this discomfort is her usual state, and not a seasonal anomaly.
Today things were unusually quiet in Mom's bedroom. I usually hear her on the baby monitor as she talks to the cat, or she will call out a greeting when I come into her room. This morning I did not hear so much as a cough.
You may think this odd, but I did not go into her bedroom to check on her. I left her apartment, came upstairs into my part of the house, and began making my bed and straightening my room. It was a blatant denial of the possibility that Mom might have passed away in the night. All the while the baby monitor remained silent.
In the corner of my bedroom is a basket filled with supplies I've prepared for my mom's funeral. I compiled these items at the time that we bought her prepaid burial plan five years ago, when I was asked to write her obituary for our funeral director to keep on file. He said that at the time of a death, people often are not thinking clearly, and it is good to give this necessary task thought and prayer ahead of time. And so, being forced to face facts, I went ahead and gathered items that I thought would make a nice service for my mother. There is a slide show of photos of her life, a collection of picture stands that will hold some of her oil paintings on display, a box of the pink, engraved cards that she included with each picture sold at the arts and crafts shows she attended, and a few of her journals with meaningful quotes highlighted.
Of course, as I cleaned my bedroom I tripped over this basket. "You can run but you can't hide," I thought ruefully.
It is human nature to seek escapism from things that are unpleasant. It is an ongoing challenge to balance the grief of losing my mother with the need to enjoy her in the days that remain.
Awhile later I did open the door to Mom's room and found her enjoying coffee and toast. She greeted me with her usual smile and so, for today, we have one another still.
Prayer: Lord grant me grace to enjoy my mother while she is here. Grant me freedom both from fear of losing her and from fear of being increasingly burdened by the care she may require. I place my faith in You, Lord. I know that You will support and sustain me through joy and sorrow, and through all the days in between. Amen.
Scripture: Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka (bitterness) they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion (Psalm 84:5-7).