You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
Psalm 56:8 New Living Translation
How Great Thou Art was one of my mom's favorite hymns. I can close my eyes and see myself as a child, standing next to her in church. If I listen closely I can almost hear her sing....."then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee....."
Along with Alzheimer's, my mom also had Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA). Slowly as the disease progressed and her brain shut down, she began losing her ability to communicate. At first, she would struggle to find her words, or use the wrong word, like saying "window" when she wanted to say "door."
In the very beginning stages, when she was still compensating well (living alone, driving, etc), I would walk away from conversations with her, totally confused. I felt like **I** was the one losing my mind. At that point we didn't know who was losing what!
She still looked like her usual self, so these conversations messed with my mind, and made me think I was just overly tired or not paying attention. She would laugh it off and say things like, "Oh, I just can't get my mouth to work today" and go on about her business as if this was the most normal thing ever.
One thing that was consistent during my mom's decline, was that she never forgot about Jesus. Even when she was at the point of no longer being able to speak, she reacted to the name of Jesus. Her spirit was simply trapped inside a body that didn't cooperate. I knew deep down she was in there, because of different reactions I would observe.
One Sunday, when she was still able to get up, I took her to "church". (God bless those sweet people who faithfully show up every week to minister to memory care patients!) The facility she was in had a large conference room and a local church would come and have a service for the residents. They typically sung the old traditional hymns that many of us grew up with. As we were singing "Nothing But The Blood Of Jesus", I noticed that my mom was holding her song sheet upside down. No matter. She couldn't read at that point anymore, but it gave her a sense of normal, holding onto her page just like everyone else.
I also noticed that every time we came to the name of Jesus in the song - my mom would mouth "Jesus" at the right time and kind of bounce her hand to the syllables. This went on for the entire song. I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat every time I think back on it. She may not have known where she was, or what day it was, but she knew her Jesus. Her soul and spirit were singing what her physical body couldn't.
About a month after my mom's funeral, a sweet friend gave me a beautiful picture to frame, with Psalm 56:8 on it. She knew I had shed a lot of tears. Most of them were shed long before the funeral.
I learned early on in the journey and diagnosis, to smile through the tears. Celebrate the little things. Find moments of joy, laughter, and hope wherever they might be. Some days the funny memories I had were the only thing keeping me going. My mom gave me plenty of reasons to laugh.
I was told several times that Alzheimer’s is the long goodbye. After I heard that, I made it a point to never say goodbye to my mom. Ever.
Whenever I left her, I would always tell her, ‘I’ll see you later” or “I’ll be back in a little while.” I refused to say goodbye. On the day that she slipped peacefully away and entered Heaven, I still didn’t say goodbye. For Christians, it is always, “See you later.” I have the blessed hope of knowing I will see my Mom (and Dad) again. I have no doubt of that.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t miss her. I would never wish her back if it meant living again with Alzheimer’s. I would never wish her back period. I was with her the day her diagnosis was made official. I was sitting right next to her. Mom, me, and the specialist. Uncharted territory.
I held her hand, and quietly asked the doctor, “How long do you think?” I didn’t want to come right out and say it. I couldn’t. The words choked me. He knew what I was asking.
I would ask that same question again, when hospice was started. "How long do you think?"
But the truth is, only God knows the number of our days. No one could give me the answer. I wanted to be prepared, to have some sense of what to expect. No one could give me that. Only God could give me peace, as I prepared to let go.
I'm still sad for all that she went through. I'm sad that I won't hug her again this side of heaven. But in my heart, I know that my mom is finally free, and full of joy. No longer labeled by Alzheimer’s. I would never want to be so selfish that I would wish my Mom back to a failing body and mind, just so I could hug her one more time. I love her too much for that.
So I close my eyes, when the tears fall and picture her singing and smiling, dancing, moving freely. Laughing and blissful, a twinkle in her eye.
Happier than she’s ever been, finally home, singing....
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And lead me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow with humble adoration,
And then proclaim, "My God, how great Thou art!"
You can read my first post about my mom's journey with Alzheimer's here
*The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother, who lost her battle with Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story in these posts, and some things I learned along the way.