|One of my favorites of Mom's paintings.|
After I left home, my mother took a class in oil painting and discovered an unexpected gift for painting skies and trees, crooked fenceposts and country scenes. Her work was popular at local craft shows for a time, and she enjoyed it greatly. Six of her paintings hang in my home, and it is not sentiment that causes me to grant them their places of honor; they are beautiful and I would love them even if the artist were not my mother. One of the signs of Mom's approaching dementia was that she gave up this beloved hobby.
Alzheimer's disease is categorized as a terminal illness, and I wish this designation would be changed. Many Alzheimer's patients have years of time remaining to enjoy life, and that word "terminal" can hang over the heads of caregivers, especially, as the grieving process is drawn out interminably. I was helped by the realization that we are all terminal! During the early years of my mom's diagnosis, especially, we proceeded with life as usual...yes, our "usual" had changed, but life does not remain stagnant no matter what one's circumstances. Change is the norm.
Now, fifteen years into my mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis, she is 94 years old and has lived in a nursing home for two years. As has been characteristic of her disease, change has happened very slowly for her, but I am moving forward in my journey to release her into the Lord's loving arms as she draws irreversibly nearer to home.
I've had a more difficult time with grief since Mom's nursing home placement. You would think 15 years would've given me time to accept and adapt, but the reality of caregiving is such that we are often too busy with current loads of care to be able to process the grief that is headed our way. I also have my doubts about the veracity of preemptory grief; I'm not certain we can do "grief work" for a sorrow that has not yet arrived.
I read an article today at caring.com that gave ideas about celebrating the legacy of a loved one who is dying. The activities outlined in the article seem helpful to me; memorializing our loved ones with a quilt, a scrapbook, or a box of memories gives us a sense of...oh, if not closure, then the feeling that we have preserved their legacy and honored who they were. I especially liked the idea of taking a class to gain a skill our loved one possessed, and then using their materials to create a work of our own. This would preserve a visible "passing of the torch" and provide a continuation of a legacy that brought joy.
I don't know whether I'll ever take a class in oil painting, but my mom's legacy will continue through me in my writing and teaching, and most especially through my faith in the Lord, which grew from seeds she planted in my heart by her words and example through all my growing up years.
You can find the caring.com article of ways to preserve a loved one's legacy here: 5 Creative Ways You Can Celebrate a Dying Loved One's Legacy.
|Details from paintings by my mom. |