I’m grieving for my mother in law, Linda, who only yesterday turned 64 years old. She is slipping further down the long dark well of early onset Alzheimer’s. Today I found myself trying to express to her, in the simplest of ways, that bad things happen to good people. Even as her brain function is diminishing, I see her grasping, as we all do, to understand WHY. She can’t always remember the right words, but what she was trying to ask the chaplain who visited her today is, “What did I do to deserve this? WHY am I being punished? How could God allow this to happen? Was I a bad person in my past life? Why is this happening?”
To even write about her feels like a betrayal. To mourn for her or memorialize her while she still lives and breathes, is all wrong. At the same time, the articulate and thoughtful woman I came to call Mom, and have grown to love over the last 18 years, is gone. In her place is this anxious, paranoid and sometimes angry woman. How much longer will she even know who I am?
I shower her. I comb her hair. I help her get dressed. Even if my words overwhelm and confuse her, I know she can feel my love when I rub lotion into her hands. We are looking towards outside help, for nursing home placement, a way to keep her safe. She thinks she has done something wrong, that she is bad and we are punishing her by putting her away somewhere. There is no fixing this situation, no way to know how long we will go on with this long goodbye.
It hurts to be here and it hurts to leave. I feebly pat myself on the back for what small offering of a shower or a meal I can provide. I push paper. I make phone calls. I keep busy.
Difficult times come. Sometimes hardships roll in like waves, seemingly one thing upon the next. Sometimes it’s hard to find which way is up, to find the space for little gasps of breath so we can brace for the next wave.
Try as we might to draw meaningful connections, sometimes the reason never comes. We tell ourselves a story, but the moral is insufficient. The protagonist is lost somewhere between the lines, the pages tear stained and the words blurred.