Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Best Way to Lose a Mom

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?"

"That's Ryan."

"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.

Much love,


  1. Dementia is a cruel ending to a life well lived. Your ideas have the right priorities. Might I add one more: share oral stories with your children about what Grandma was like before her illness. Your older ones might remember, but for your younger ones, it the present Grandma they are more familiar with. Find opportunities to share all the strengths your mom had so that your children can get to know the great lady you have come to love. Those stories will also help them come to terms with your mom's situation.

  2. April, you like your dear Mother are beautiful on the inside & outside. I read your posts & am also loosing my Dad slowly and have already lost my dear Mother two years after I married my best friend.

    My heart still aches over the loss of my dear mother & best friend but now I am slowly loosing my Dad too. I have learned to relish the tender sweet memories, the family moments we shared, traditions & much humor we all enjoyed over the years. Often I share these experiences with my daughter and she loves hearing about my years growing up! We keep her spirit alive & everyday especially in my darkest hours of grief and pain I feel her over near comforting me.

    I care for my Dad a few day's a week & as his mind is slipping away I remember the father I knew growing up, hard working, loyal, compassionate, valiant leader & kindhearted father. I lovingly try my hardest to care for him & shower him with the love he gave to me as a child. I know I will never regret these moments I get to share with him as a tender soul.

    I take great comfort in knowing that someday we will be set free of the shackles we experience in life & will fall at the feet of a loving heavenly father & our forever families!

    keep loving your sweet Mother & don't forget to breath.

  3. My maternal grandmother had a stroke when I was 4. I do not remember her well. She could not talk and wasn't all there mentally after the stroke. My Mom was great to share stories about her with me. She was an incredible lady and I cannot wait to get to know here on the other side. My Mom involved all of us in her care as well. My sisters and I would go clean her house once a week as well as sit with her to give my sweet Grandpa a break. My older sister would do her hair once a week and we had her for dinner every Sunday. It gave us a great appreciation for Grandpa, our love for Grandma grew as well as we served her. My only piece of advice is to involve your children in her care as well, they will remember it all of their lives.

    I am so sorry that you are losing her, I wish I could give you a big hug. You are one of the sweetest, most loving people I've ever met (I know it's only been twice, but I can just tell).

  4. Sorry to hear you are having to go through this April, but your goals are positive and i'm sure will help you and your children immensely as you share memories and remember the good times and as you taught me at power of moms in Sydney, creating memories for a lifetime.

  5. I have been so touched by your focus on your mom lately. You will not regret all your effort and time with her. What a sweet lady. Amazed at your optimism, heartbroken at watching you let go... Love you April.

  6. Hi April. My heart goes out to you. I lost my mom last summer when she was two months short of her 91st birthday. But long before that we lost her to Alzheimer's. One day during a visit I pulled out my macbook and started showing her photos. One photo was from 1942.
    I pointed to the photo and said, "This is you and your sister Billie but I don't know who the other gal is."
    She quickly said as if the photo had been taken the day before, "Oh! That's Jackie!"
    I asked her who Jackie was. 'She's my Frank's sister!" Frank was her brother-in-law.
    It was then that I truly realized, that even at times when she didn't know me, her youngest daughter, she remembered her life from 65+ years ago. Sadly I was only 56 when she died so I was a forgotten memory.
    I started going through every single photo our family had from years ago. I made copies and mailed them to her several times a week. This is a sample of those photos that I just posted for Mother's Day:
    Not only did my mother enjoy the photos but the people who worked with her (in the 24/7 care home where she lived) would talk with her about the photos. It gave her a chance to think, remember and laugh.
    Talk with your mom as often as you can. Ask her about long ago. Tell her about today and yesterday. Mail her letters, drawings and photos from and of your children. Remember the lessons she taught you and listen to the lessons she still will teach. Thinking of you, your family and your mom. And especially your father.
    Hugs, Cathi

  7. Once again, just a random blog reader but I had some thoughts I felt to share. I don't have personal experience with this, but I know that never ever in life will we regret being a little too kind, a little too loving, or spending a little too much time with those we love. As you serve and help your Mom (and Dad) through this, your love will grow for them. We always feel love for those we serve.

    I hope this doesn't sound like I know your situation, because I don't. But I do know that you will never ever regret the time you are able to spend with your family. Thought and prayers headed your way!

  8. April I think you are absolutely amazing. I am a reader from New Zealand and have been reading your blog for a while but never commented before. I just wanted to say how much I admire you and how coming onto your blog and reading your website gives me a push everyday to be the best possible mum, wife and person that I can be. I so want you to know what an incredible difference you make in others lives and that by sharing your own experiences that only increases. Both my grandparents had dementia my grandmother used to joke and call it her forgettery! Something that worked so well for me was focussing with her in the hear and now and experiencing the present together things like beautiful autumn leaves or light and also laughing about things that have just happened even silly things like a cat acting crazy in a garden. Without having met you I love you so much you are simply amazing xxx

  9. You are the sweetest daughter ever. I love seeing the way you care for, worry about, and try to honor your mom in this stage of life. I am thankful for your reminders that I need to cherish the relationship I have with my mother.


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