On Mother’s Day 2012, eight months after my mom died.
My name, Sharlene, was the last word my mom spoke before becoming totally non verbal the last days of hospice. I humbly share that with you as a resonate tribute to my caregiving.
My mother lived with me and within me for the last two years of her life. Although I did not give the eulogy at my mother’s service I did speak briefly. I spoke only from the heart. I can recall nearly verbatim.
“My mom has been in the grips of this alzheimers disease for many years. The darkness had been sent long before the eight year ago diagnosis. One often hears that this disease is worst for the caregiver than for the victim. It is not so.
My mom never stopped questioning me about her disease. Lamenting with tears, she would ask me, why she was like this; when would she get better; why she was so useless; what was wrong with her; why can’t the doctors fix her, but most often, why was she so different than other people. Consolingly, I would assure her she is not different than other people her age. Sometimes she would respectfully say, “Sharlene that is just not true.” Sometimes she would sream “Liar”
Her early denial of the disease quickly transformed into bravery and courage that she relied on to navigate her way. And navigate she did. As my mom would lose one skill set, another survival technique emerged. For example, as she saw herself being excluded from more and more conversations, my mother became keenly affection toward people’s pets. She intuitively knew this translated into more attention directed to her.
My mom’s sense of humor became-weird-, often inappropriate. Yet she had some great one line zingers. Only three weeks ago as she lay in the hospital with a recently broken hip, at my request she named all six her children. My response was “wow mom, you had a of kids.” Her quip, as my father sat there was “yup and I am still wondering who the father is.”
My mom was determined to continue to communicate verbally, continue walking and to stay continent. She accomplished all three.
And finally my mom had beautiful teeth. Since her fall of three weeks ago I had at least twenty different CNAs ask me if those were her real teeth or did they forget to take her dentures out.
I was with my mom when she died. I knew her breathing had changed. I knew it was the end. I held my hands around her face and cried “Go to the light, Go to light, Go get your memory back, And she did.”