Your world as a caregiver revolves around your loved one who has Alzheimer's disease. You focus so much of your time, energy, and resources on them that they quickly become the center of your universe. Then they are gone. And how quickly it seems, the world moves on without them.
In our case, Mom died in the middle of the night. I got the call around 2:30 a.m., and then woke up my brother, Steve, and called my father. Fighting through the leftover pieces of sleep that clogged his mind, Dad groped for what to say: "Well, I guess that's it. I guess we'll all go back to sleep and make plans in the morning." A few minutes later, the phone rang again - it was my father, now more alert, checking to see if Steve and I had returned to bed. After finding that we had not, Dad wondered if he could drive over and join us. We sat in my living room until nearly dawn, trying to absorb the news we had just heard.
After returning to bed for a few hours of fitful sleep, we were each on the phone to family members and friends to share the news about Mom's passing. Then we departed to head to the funeral home to make Mom's last arrangements. Upon returning home, each of us tried to take a nap, but my mind wouldn't turn off. A family member, John, arrived and brought dinner. We sat around my living room as the three guys told stories and joked around, but the day continued to have a hazy quality to it.
Then the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, I found a few of the college students who lived across the street. "We're having a birthday party in honor of C.J. and wanted to let you know. Here's our cell phone numbers in case we get too loud," one excitedly said. I awkwardly took the card, fumbling for words. "Well, okay. We'll probably be pretty quiet over here since my mother died this morning," I replied, breaking into tears. The students suddenly looked away, not sure how to respond. As I headed to my front door, I tried to regroup, "Tell C.J. to have a great birthday."
In my mind, Mom's death and C.J.'s celebration of his own life on that warm day in September 2007 are now intertwined. I sometimes think the intersection of those two events was the universe's way of making its own important point -- endings come, they aren't easy, but the world and its inhabitants need to continue to move forward to celebrate life once a loved one has died.
Published On: June 23, 2008