“I want to tell you how much I miss my mother. Bits of her are still there. I miss her most when I’m sitting across from her.”Candy Crowler, CNN Chief Political Correspondent (daughter of Alzheimers parent)
My family is coming up on the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing. My mother, Serena Rose (LaBarbera) Cross was 91 and suffered from Alzheimer’s. No death of a loved one is ever easy to accept, regardless of the circumstances or the person’s age.
I recently read the Gunny Rose trilogy by one of my favorite authors, Charlaine Harris. The first book was entitled ‘An Easy Death’ in which the most respectful death a rifleman can offer another is to make it quick, with the least amount of suffering, usually a shot to the head.
Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body dementia, garden variety dementia, whatever the diagnosis; is by no means an easy death. My mother started having “off” days a couple of years before she was diagnosed in 2015. She died in August 2020. Trust me when I tell you there were plenty of years of suffering in between.
When a loved one dies, there’s no telling how people will react. Our father died 25 years ago and it’s an understatement to say we all showed our asses in our mishandling of his funeral and wake, including arguing over who was his favorite daughter.
In retrospect, I’ve learned to respect my sisters’ way of individually dealing with death. We all reacted differently to my mother’s passing. I have one sister who lives out of state and said her goodbyes a year before, so she was squared up with things. Another sister traveled across the country during the darkest days of the covid epidemic, before immunizations were available, to be with me so we could share our grief together. 💕
Even though they were many miles away, I felt an overwhelming presence of love and support from both of them.
My mother had a sweet, naive sensibility, but was by no means a pushover! Today I have fond memories of her and an appreciation for the many hardships she endured in her life. Her four daughters loved her dearly and we all know she did her best. She gave us all a solid upbringing. My husband affectionately describes her as an Italian firecracker! I’d have to say that he is spot on. It’s true she was a strong-willed woman, and I see her influences in me.
In 2015 I created an uncirculated personal blog called ‘Conversations With Sally.’ For a short time it helped me cope with my mother’s deteriorating condition. By documenting some of our actual conversations and lighthearted banter, I was able to see little snippets of humor in an otherwise bleak situation. I was her “person” and if you are your loved one’s “person,” you will understand. It takes a mental toll on you after a while. You need an outlet. I used levity. And wine. Lots of wine.
Document, Document, Document
If you have a loved one suffering from a terminal illness, document your conversations. Write them down on paper, record them, make videos, draw pictures of them, take selfies. Better yet, help them write about their life. Do whatever you can to preserve the fond memories you have with them.
I did not have many posts on Conversations With Sally before she went downhill. She could no longer carry on a coherent conversation. Her last year she was fairly non-communicative; she had lost her ability to talk.
First the adult home, then assisted living. Ultimately she ended up in Riverledge Nursing Home. The nursing staff and employees did a great job caring for her and I will be forever in their debt. Things got really bad when the covid-19 pandemic resulted in no visitations. I worry that she thought I had abandoned her. I can only hope and pray she knew my absence was out of my control.
Please visit the site below if you get a chance. My favorite “conversation” is the awkward telephone chat we had about the dress she wanted to wear for her funeral. We both laughed so hard we had tears! It’s my tribute to a woman with a wonderful sense of humor!
My mother is at peace now, and so am I. Thank you for joining me – Barb, the River Blogger