Mom died one year ago today. It seems that we lost her long before that, as Alzheimer’s disease progressively robbed her of her personality, her memory, and the very essence of her being.
It was a snowy Sunday morning when we got a call from the personal care home that Mom had taken a turn for the worse, and her caregiver felt that the family should come. We called the other members of the family and hurried to her.
Actually, she had started on her long journey home several days before that. She could still sit in her recliner, but no longer recognized any of us and her speech was nearly gone. It was heartbreaking to try to talk to her and there was no response—just a blank stare.
The last time she recognized me, daughter Patty was with me. We were trying to get some liquid down her, and Patty got up in the bed with her and coaxed her to swallow some orange juice. She had always been very close to Pat, as she had helped take care of Mom when she was in our home.
Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that affects the brain and causes loss of memory, the ability to think and speak clearly, and to perform everyday tasks. I remember Mom telling me, when she was in the early stages, that she wished I could see her brain. “It’s like a tangle of wires,” she said. At that time she was aware that something was very wrong.
It was after she fell down her basement stairs and broke her hip that we realized that something was wrong. We’d had some warning signs prior to that, but attributed it to the normal process of aging. Sometimes we would find her medicine scattered under the table, and would try to make sure she was taking the correct dosage.
It was hard to realize that Mom, with her strong personality and independent spirit, was becoming mentally incompetent. I took over paying her bills when she tried to write a check and forgot where to sign her name. She had always clung to her home, refusing to consider a short visit to her children, saying, “I want my own little home in my own little neighborhood.”
When she broke her hip, it was pretty certain that she had also suffered a slight stroke. Her personality changed then, and she moved in with us without argument. In fact, she shuddered at the thought of going back to the house where she had fallen.
I wouldn’t take anything for that first year with her. We grew closer than we had ever been in our lives. She was so easy to care for, and appreciated every little thing that was done for her. It was a joy to be with her. Her primary doctor, Dr. Patel, commented on how blessed we were that she was so sweet and gentle. “They are not all like that,” she said.
Almost exactly a year later, she fell and broke the other hip. The surgeon said it was possible that she had suffered another stroke and fell. This time, she didn’t rally nearly as well. We thought we were going to lose her then, as she wouldn’t eat and refused therapy at the hospital. We brought her home, and it was weeks before she would respond. Patty finally got her walking again, and she regained some strength.
She was here for two more years, and it was our plan to keep her the rest of her life. However, I broke both bones in my leg, and we had to make other plans. My sisters tried to take care of her, but the time had come when we needed more help.
I’ve heard people say, “Oh, I would never put one of my parents in a nursing home.” Don’t say that until you have walked in the shoes of someone who has to make that decision. We were blessed in having a relative who ran a personal care home, and Mom was cared for as tenderly as if she had been Dovie’s mother.
Mom always had a quick wit and a ready retort. She never lost that until the last days of her life. Dovie had a repairman fixing her air conditioner one day, and he saw Mom trying to get up off the couch by herself. He was a nice looking young man, and he got Mom by the arm and helped her to stand.
He asked her, “Now, where did you want to go?” She grinned at him flirtatiously and answered, “Just wherever you want to take me!”
There are so many precious memories. As my sister Mary Ellen said, “I miss Mom the way she used to be.” She was “Mom” for a long, long time, and her life lessons are ingrained in us. We were blessed to have a godly mother, one who brought us up by the Bible and also set an example by her daily life. No one could ever take her place. After many years of marriage, Mom and Dad would sit in church and hold hands. I like to think of them holding hands now in a land of perfect happiness.
We received a song some time ago from Janice Baker of Lizemore, which her mother sang to her. She sang it to her children, and now her daughter Kathy is singing it to her grandchildren. Mom sang it to us too.
TWO LITTLE ORPHANS
Two little orphans, a boy and a girl
Sat by an old church door
The little girl’s feet were as brown as the curl
That fell on the dress that she wore.
The little boy’s coat was all ragged and torn,
A tear shone in each little eye,
Why don’t you run home to your mommy,” I said
And this was the maiden’s reply.
“Mommy’s in heaven, angels took her away
Left Jim and I all alone
And Papa got lost on the sea long ago
We have no Mama nor home.”
“We can’t earn our bread, we’re too little,” she said
“Jim’s five and I’m only seven
We’ve no one to love us since Papa’s away
And darling Mama’s in heaven.
The sexton came early to ring the church bell
And found them beneath the snow white
The angels made room for the orphans to dwell
Up in heaven with their mama that night.