The Long Goodbye

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.


9 thoughts on “The Long Goodbye”

  1. Not a betrayal at all. I’m sorry for this painful, drawn out, bewildering process you are all in.

  2. Hi Melissa,

    Your mom is our breeder….I am sooo very sorry that you are going through this. My mom, almost 11 years ago moved in with us-and about 4 years ago, alzheimers/dementia started taking over. She went to a assisted living and from there to a hospital and then a nursing home. Outside help, if you live in Ulster Co., there is all kinds of help. For me, being in Greene Co. no. I don’t know what your financial situation is wheather self pay or medicade, is a zoo of paperwork to go through and other things to get her in. Golden Hill is not expensive, The Ivy Lodge I recommend highly, the nursing homes are another story. Please, please don’t even consider Robinson Terrace out in Stamford. I’m trying to get mom moved to Ulster Co and into hospice care. My lawyer is working on it.

    1. Hi Christina, this is Cindy, Melissa’s mom. Melissa is struggling with this with her husband’s mom….not me.

  3. I understand just what you are feeling. It is beyond any words. Yet you have shared what so many of us feel and in some cases, silence is the only option involuntary or not. And so I offer an understanding ear if you need. I am overwhelmed for more than that right now. But I will always listen and I recognize your beautifully elucidated emotions

    And i love you

  4. Sending you a huge hug and wrapping you all in love. As hard as this may be/become, know that your decisions will be good ones…be sure to take care of YOU – you must give from a full cup…and let yourself ride the waves of emotions, accept help and be gentle with yourself as well as with her. I stand in awe of your courage to be so open to all of us and to stand in the fullness of this tempest…with your huge open heart. She is blessed to have you in her world, even on the days when her conscious mind may not remember…her spirit and yours will.

  5. I am 80. I have Lewy body dementia. Early stages. I have a new partner who I love desperately and passionately. I will leave him sooner than I want to. We are making the best of every day. It’s very hard. We cry a lot. A lot. But, it is life. We come. Maybe we leave a legacy of love and wisdom. Maybe we dont. Then we leave. That’s our life. Just a memory.

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