Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Lesson From Alzheimer's Disease: Hope Springs Eternal


Today is the first day of spring: the equinox, transitions on the earth's axis. Mother nature giving us a respite from winter.

It's also my mom's birthday.  I've had no choice but to put her in hospice care at home, which is sad, but also a relief for her sake -- all, everything and anything for her pleasure and comfort.  I am fully committed to making each and every breath she has left in her as joyful as possible.

It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to help someone die -- to make a graceful, dignified and happy transition to light.

Recently, a friend of mine who practices Reiki, kindly sent me a care package with a teddy bear, among other goodies. When I first held the teddy bear, I sobbed, because it reminded me of the photo above.  If I hadn't had a miscarriage last year, I'd be holding a baby of similar size. I named her Alba, which means "morning song" in Spanish.

I had no baby. There was never a morning song.

But I'm still a mom to my mom.  My mom is my baby.  The sun still rises every morning. And hope springs eternal.

So now I hold the teddy bear instead, because I can no longer hold what I've lost, including my mother's old and ailing body.

We are attached to material things in ways we should forget.

Actually, that's the good thing about mourning a patient with Alzheimer's before she has even died:  it teaches us a lesson in humility and what is really, truly materially important.  It's the love in your heart, not the things you hold or possess, that forever remain -- an impossible invisible imprint, something unspoken but carved deeply in the soul, a petroglyph in the heart, the songs we sing in frequencies we can't see with the naked eye, the simple technology of suckling on a nipple, or feeding an aged body that can barely swallow, nourishment that has nothing to do with food, but that is all about compassion -- even if, dear mama, you are trapped in your body, unable to speak, move or live vibrantly, on this first day of spring, year 2014.

My mother's body is not my mother. But I hold her in a place so vast, so deep and filled with love, that she is larger than life to me, bigger than continents, planets, galaxies and universes.

Dear mother, thank you for being the vessel that gave me a body. A soft, supple yet strong body that I love. A body that sings.  And thank you to all the grandmothers and great grandmothers who gave me life. Women connected by an invisible umbilical chord through blood, flesh, and time, indifference of centuries; separated by boundaries of clocks, exiles, and tribes, differences of days.

Happy birthday, mama.  Even though you are dying: you are life, love and hope to me, just like you were when you held me when I was barely two months old.

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Anonymous Debra said...

Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to your Mother and acknowledging the true gifts we share.

7:44 PM  

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