This is a continuation of “Walking My Mother Home,” where author BJ Gallagher reflects on the Gifts and Blessings of Alzheimer’s based on her experiences with her mother. Read Part One here.
The Blessing of Giving Back
Mom’s illness gave me the opportunity to reciprocate the love and generous support she’s given me. She’s always been my biggest fan, my best cheerleader, and the source of financial help on more than one occasion. I wouldn’t be a writer today if it weren’t for my mother’s help. I wouldn’t own a house today if not for her. Up until now, I have had no way to pay her back the help she gave me.
But I can be there for her today. I can be her companion, her witness, her comforter and soother. At long last, I have a way to reciprocate her generosity, support, and unconditional love.
The Gift of Time
When a loved one dies suddenly and unexpectedly, there is no time to say good-bye, no time to create a few final memories. But with the glacial pace at which Alzheimer’s moves, I’ve had several years to create more wonderful memories of Mom.
Just yesterday, the hospice nurse Miriam came to check on Mom at lunch time. “How come you smiled at Miriam when she came today but you didn’t smile at me?” I asked. “I smile at you all the time,” she replied. That will be a sweet memory when she’s gone.
And last week while we were sitting quietly at the table after lunch, she looked at me and puckered her lips to blow me an air kiss. “My love,” she said softly. My heart feels like it will burst open overflowing with love when she does things like that.
The Gift of Enrichment
Being my mother’s caregiver is making me a better person. Her disease has given me the opportunity to be of service, setting aside my own selfish desires. I can practice being fully present – listening attentively, discerning her wants and needs from moment to moment, and tending to those needs. I hold her hands, rub her back, feed her lunch, keep her company until she gets tired, then sit by her bed until she falls asleep. Every day I get to leave my world to meet her in hers.
The Gift of Grace
My mother seems to be living in a state of grace. All the baggage from her past, all the minutiae of normal day to day life, all the layers of her identity have fallen away … and what’s left is love. When I’m with her I feel I’m in the presence of nothing but pure love.
I feel blessed to have this opportunity care for Mom. Alzheimer’s has been difficult and challenging at times, for sure, but it has also given us many gifts and blessings. I am enriched by the experience.
Ram Dass is right. I’m just walking my mother home.
BJ GALLAGHER is a Los Angeles author whose books include: “Why Don’t I Do the Things I Know Are Good for Me?” (Berkley/Penguin) and “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Other Women” (Conari Press) and “Oil for Your Lamp: Women Taking Care of Themselves” (Simple Truths). www.bjgallagher.com