Excerpt from the upcoming book on Alzheimer’s, The Memory Keeper by Jessica Bryan
When I was a young teen, I remember my mother telling me that people don’t change. This was her mother’s wisdom passed to me and I believed it. But she was wrong! People DO change. My mother has changed, and as a consequence, so have I! Mom has Alzheimer’s and I am her caregiver.
For me, change involves stopping to evaluate and analyze before reacting negatively. With difficulty, I see how I transform my anger to other emotions. There is always a little anger…oh, and sadness. But there is also acceptance, compassion, and gratitude as well. I have to work at it, but it’s an effort that rewards me with an insight to my real emotions. I am still angry about this illness…this unfortunate thing that has happened to my mother…to ME! Yes. That’s it. I see it as happening to me because I have lost my mother and all of her memories.
I have heard others say that there is no upside to the illness, as we watch our loved ones lose their dignity along with their memories. As I am quick to agree, I stop myself and evaluate this statement. (Here’s where I am changing.) After a moment, I have to admit that maybe I don’t agree. I remind myself that there actually is an upside. It is the personal awareness, the discovery of my own strengths. I also find that the overall experience has helped me grow, expand my understanding, and develop a new purpose. In life, there is work, and there is the extra time that we often fill with more work. When dealing with a loved one who is at the end of their life, we gain perspective of the important things. I once wrote about leaving the laundry, the dusting, and the dishes to go sit with my mother and enjoy just being in the moment. Together, we sat outside silently breathing in the morning air, listening to the birds and watching the leaves fluttering in the slight breeze. It was such a restful and perfect moment. I thought about my mother’s smile and her inner light that still remained in spite of the lost memories, the lost words and the lost understanding of words. I thought about who she was and who she had been…that woman who gave so much of herself, who was once so vibrant, so joyful, so strong and resilient. At that moment I smiled at her, knowing that our souls still touched and understood what she consciously did not. We were and would forever be connected. It made the moment so special for me as I felt gratitude for being able to share this time with her. While the days can be long and frustrating, I have her with me while others lose their parents too quickly without having an opportunity for closure. I can see that my books and my writing are a way of letting go, of saying good-bye and appreciating what a full, full life she had and I still have. In reflecting upon those things I also know that years from now when I look at the empty chair that she once occupied, I will still smile through the tears. It tugs at my heart to know that she is leaving me moment by moment, memory by memory – but oh how rich she has made my life!
Written by Jessica Bryan
Jessica Bryan is an author of 28 books ranging from Children’s books to adult fiction and non-fiction. Her books on caregiving have assisted many who are facing similar circumstances. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her husband, Skip, her 99-year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s and her dog, Kira. She is also a Real Estate Broker, a trained mediator, a public speaker, a community volunteer, and assists her husband in a home design business. Her books can be found on Amazon or for a complete list go to http://www.books-by-jessica–