Keep your face to the sun
and you will never see the shadows
– Helen Keller
– Helen Keller
It was a gorgeous sunny day, right at the start of summer. Spring was at its very end, and the days were warmer and longer. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and I felt a sudden urgency to take mom out for some fresh air.
I can’t really explain the nudging I had, other than I knew I had to do it now. I had a sense of foreboding that there was a very short window of opportunity open to me. I dropped what I was doing, and followed my gut.
I arrived at the memory care facility, and headed towards her room. She was asleep but woke up when I walked in. She smiled at me, staying quiet. She had been given her bath and I asked her if she would like to get up. She shook her head yes. She seemed alert and peaceful, so once the staff had her up in her wheelchair, I put a light sweater on her and a big floppy hat to block the sun. She was dignified and fashionable, if nothing else.
I decided to bring her to my home, which wasn’t very far from the facility. I walked there many times, when the weather was nice. My own personal “trail of tears” if you will. I grieved and shed many tears, on those walks. I prayed and asked God a lot of questions as well.
Mom hadn’t been to my home since we moved and I really wanted her to see where I lived. I had this deep, un-explainable need to have her “home” with me, for whatever time she was up to it. I sensed this might be my only chance.
I checked with the nurses first, to make sure she was safe in the wheelchair, and then I informed them we were going for a walk. I had no idea what I was getting into pushing her all that way. In my enthusiasm I forgot how much she would weigh! Though she was small in stature, pushing dead weight in a wheelchair, up several hills is a workout to say the least.
But once outside, she seemed to really enjoy the "walk" and took it all in stride.
It was a bit bumpy and rough at times, but we went slow and we made it. My husband and son greeted us outside, and walked the rest of the way with us. Once inside my home, she looked around, wide-eyed and alert.
I got out the curling iron and hairspray and we began to play “beauty shop” which she loved. As I worked on her hair, she started dozing off. She always relaxed deeply when I brushed or curled her hair. It was soothing for her, and for me it was a way of bonding with her.
She was quiet but spoke up a time or two. At one point, clear as a bell, she said, "I wish I could stay here with you."
Maintaining my composure, I said, 'I know, mom." I hugged her tight and offered her a cookie, trying to keep a smile on my face, as my heart ached deep. As I swallowed the huge lump in my throat, she was perfectly content. No tears or acting out. Just a simple wish spoken out loud as she smiled and took it all in.
A few short weeks later, gathered at her bedside, I would hear her voice again in my head. As I experienced the very holy and sacred moment that she transitioned to heaven, it was me this time doing the wishing.
“I wish you could stay here with me.”
Wanting her to stay with me for just awhile longer, but knowing heaven had so much more to offer.
I showed her around my home that day, though it was a bit of a challenge with the chair. Two of my wonderful neighbors stopped by, and doted on her with kindness and love. Mom took to them right away and smiled a lot. She didn’t talk much but seemed very interested in them. They of course were gracious and talked to her, as if she knew exactly what they were saying. As it drew close to her lunchtime, I bagged up some cookies and told her it was time to go back, and she would be eating soon. She was fine and didn’t make a peep.
We walked slowly back to the facility taking in the fresh air and the warm sun. She was relaxed and calm, and I talked more about lunch, preparing her for what would happen next. Routine was critical and she did better when she was told what was happening. I told her was I going to also have some lunch and I would be back in a little while. She shook her head yes.
I told her we would go outside again on another nice day, and she shook her head yes again. Sadly, right after that, her decline was so swift and she became bedridden so fast, that I never had the chance to take her out again. I was so thankful we had that few moments.
Outside, her blue eyes did the talking, when her voice was silent. The look on her face when we first went out was priceless. She lifted her face to the sun, took a deep breath, and with eyes closed drank in what would be her last time basking in the warm rays.
I can close my eyes and see her even now, and what a peaceful picture she made. Another precious memory to carry with me, in the days ahead.
Someday, she’ll be the one showing me around her new home, and we’ll finally be home for good.
*The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother, who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.
Precious Memories Part 1
Precious Memories Part 2
Precious Memories Part 3
Precious Memories Part 4
Precious Memories Part 5
Precious Memories Part 6
Precious Memories Part 7
Precious Memories Part 8
Precious Memories Part 9
Precious Memories Part 10