For the past several months I’ve been visiting a hospice patient in an Alzheimer’s facility. It is pretty amazing actually. I sing to her and pray and listen to her discussions which she has with her own inner spirits. Most days she doesn’t know I’m there but every once in a while she surprises me with a look and “I really like you”. Even though I understand she doesn’t really know who I am, it still delights me when these moments break through.
Because of this experience with my patient I had a sense of the situation when I arrived yesterday and realized Evelyn; one of the other residents had died. Evelyn’s daughters Lucy and Edie were clearing out her room of all the personal items she will no longer need. Tears were flowing and it was very sad. Even though their mom was mostly gone already due to the disease, I could appreciate to some degree their pain and loss of hope for those moments when something would break through and Evelyn would suddenly know for a second who they were…and then she was gone again. They had already lost so much, one would think this would be a “relief” but their mixed feelings were palpable.
Later, as I was preparing to leave, I overheard a conversation between Lucy and a nurse who had cared for Evelyn. Lucy was sharing stories about her mom. Evelyn loved to cook and celebrate every possible holiday; when none was handy, she would make one up. Lucy’s faced glowed as she shared the life of this precious woman. I realized that now that Evelyn’s body was gone, it will be the abundance of memories that will nourish them. The girls will no longer need to spend half their time hoping for one more memory. No, now all their emotional energy will be spent in retrieval, reflection and warm hearted moments that could make them smile, or sigh, or wonder. Their mother will never be “really gone” since she is part of every aspect of their lives now and forever as their memories take over.
(names used are not real)