My mom has had dementia for a little over three years now.
It started very subtlety. We were on a girls' weekend when I was speaking at a conference, and she asked me for a second time if we should leave a tip for the hotel maid (we'd already had a two-minute discussion about it). I remember freezing for a moment, wondering if her mind was beginning to go--because, you see, my mom's mom also lost her memory, and since the age of nine, I had been carefully watching the signs to see if it would happen to her.
Well, yesterday my sister Laura and I had a good talk on the phone about this.
Laura lives right across the street from our parents, and, in a recent conversation, she asked Mom if she knew who her children were. Mom was struggling to recall all eight of our names, so Dad took this picture from 1986 off the wall and held it in front of her.
"Now there's Bobby and Linda . . ." she started.
Then a pause.
And pointing to me (bottom left), asked, "Now who's 'Smiley Face'?"
"That's April!" My dad reminded her.
"Oh, yes, April. Of course. And who is the little boy?"
"Oh yes, Ryan."
I had to chuckle a bit when Laura shared that story. I could just hear my mom's cute voice and see her trying to figure out our names.
"Maybe I shouldn't tell you this," Laura said.
"No, it's okay." I replied.
"We can laugh a little now, but we need to accept the fact that she's not going to get better. She's eventually going to forget who we are. There's no reversing it."
"I know." I said softly.
But now I can't get that conversation out of my head. I have been thinking about it since yesterday afternoon, and I realized that I need to discover the very best way to lose my mom.
I already know the worst way. It involves lots of crying, lots of discouraging moments, and hours of quiet where I close myself up and mourn.
Some of that is okay, but it worries my children. They don't like to see me so sad, and I know there has got to be a better way to do this.
So through a lot of thinking and a lot of prayer, I've come up with a few solutions, but to be quite honest, this blog post is a bit of a cry for help. I know so many people who have lost their moms, and I'm hoping that if you are one of them, you can be a guide for me along this path. And then together, we can be a guide for others. Maybe even for our own children.
The first thing I decided is that I am going to BE a good mom.
It's so easy to get distracted, but yesterday afternoon, I made root beer slushies for my children, looked through their brand-new yearbooks with them, and simply enjoyed the sounds of laughter as they jumped on the trampoline--with the sprinklers on full force. I am going to do everything I can to savor my years with my sons and daughters because, even though I desperately hope it will never happen to me, there may come a time when I won't know them.
Number two, I'm going to spend as much time with my mom as possible.
I talked with my friend Jennifer at our Park City Retreat, and she told me that she recently lost her mom to cancer. Knowing about my plans to spend more time with my mom, she said, "You will never, ever regret that."
Her words keep coming back into my mind.
Right now I can make the drive about once a week, and it means the world to me.
Number three, I am going to write down the details of her life and all the most beautiful things she taught me--and I am going to use those stories and experiences to help other moms.
This reminder keeps coming to me over and over again: The best way to lose a mom is to use the goodness of her life to strengthen others.
That's one reason I feel grateful for Power of Moms and this blog. I have a place to share my mom's life and her influence, and my posterity will have the chance to know her through me.
Thanks for going through this with me. For some reason, even though I don't know who reads this, I feel comforted knowing you're out there. I appreciate any advice and wisdom you have to share.