A Letter to Mom Three Years After Her Death
September 29, 2010
It’s been three years now to the day. Yep, three whole years have gone by since you passed away that early morning. I still remember the shock of the phone call coming in at 3 a.m. And the sadness that Steve (who had just flown in the evening before) didn’t get a chance to see you before you died.
Since then, the grief has stilled, although it periodically erupts in unexpected moments. Like yesterday, when I met Mara for lunch. Her mom lost the battle with Alzheimer’s late last week. I remembered how when you died, I went to a lunch with Sondra. She knew that you had jus t died, and gave me the greatest gift – a chance to talk about you. I tried to do the same for Mara. Since her mother lived in another state, Mara hadn’t been in the main caregiving role. So our conversation focused less on the last few days of her mother’s life, but instead on who her mother was as a person B.A. (before Alzheimer’s). Turns out Mara’s mom loved to travel and to do crafts, much like you did. We talked about how Mara is longing to figure out how to recreate her mom’s salmon casserole, much like I had to search high and low for your curried chicken salad recipe and still haven’t found Grandma’s orange bread recipe. And we talked about how Mara wants to go visit her mother’s sister in New York to reminisce and plans to take a trip to her mom’s hometown outside of Buffalo. On the drive home, I found myself getting teary-eyed thinking about how quickly time passes and how hard it is to live only with memories instead of a mother’s presence.
Yet, I also need to tell you that we’ve moved on with our lives. I’ve made progress on my graduate studies which you always encouraged. Dad still flirts with the waitresses. Steve continues to work as a safety manager. Oh, and you’re a great-grandmother twice over now. But some things have changed since that September day. Dad often mentions his sorrow in not being able to provide the support you needed as your Alzheimer’s progressed; he often says “I wish Mom were here” when we’re watching a movie that he thinks you’d enjoy. Steve’s stepped up to the plate in regularly communicating with Dad, perhaps realizing how quickly and irrevocably time goes by and how final death is. And some days I can still physically feel the effects of the stress of caregiving.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is the disease that you so wanted to avoid having. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all, even though three years have passed. Listen to these figures from the World Alzheimer’s Report 2010: The Global Economic Impact of Dementia: “If dementia care were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy, ranking between Turkey and Indonesia. If it were a company, it would be the world’s largest by annual revenue exceeding Wal-Mart (US $414 billion) and Exxon Mobil (US $311 billion).” And while that seems so huge, the true cost of Alzheimer’s still comes down watching the light die out in somebody’s eyes as their brain connections disintegrate. People like Don, Lorraine, Judy’s mom, Amy’s mom, Mara’s mom…and you.
We miss you!