My mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 64, after a tough life devoted to her children… and after a life dominated by one of her inner demons that made our mother-daughter relationship a hell for many years.
It was during 12 years of illness, and with professional help, with dedication and with time, that I came to understand …
I came to understand that ageing and confronting the demise of your loved ones is a rule of life, not a punishment. The when and where this will happen… a chance slot on the roulette wheel of life. And the fact that Life is random does not even come into it. There are no guilty parties, there is no rationale, nor any laments worth their while.
I understood that it is fair and right for me to respond with body and soul to the sacrifice and efforts received from my mother, without shielding myself from the tone of our relationship; that the adult in full possession of her faculties was me and that this was “The moment” to support her by being by her side and thereby pay tribute to her courage. The time to demonstrate (and demonstrate to myself) that I was the good person she wanted me to be … and that I would be proud of so being.
… and I learnt.
I learnt that sometimes it is necessary to simply accept, to lower one’s arms and surrender, without this representing a defeat. I learnt this in the dramatic moment at which the cruel diagnosis was presented starkly, definitively and irreversibly before me. I learnt that the Heart is not affected by illness and that Love remains there, indestructible, desiring as always to show itself and to be reciprocated. That only through this Love can the bond with the beloved person be maintained – that it does not disappear, as many believe – but that it remains there, present, different, yes, “new”, I would say and accessible under a different set of rules.
I learnt about myself and about my values; about my most sincere gratitude and my capacity for commitment.
I learnt to Love unconditionally, without paying heed to the past or requiring the other person to be who I needed them to be.
I learnt the immensity encapsulated within the caress of a curl of my hair and in a fixed gaze … that is not absent but free.
Beside the sadness and anger I feel when I think about the Life and the joys that my mother would never again enjoy (and this is leaving so much by the wayside), Alzheimer’s and the neurons that it stole also took away her fears, her anxiety, her demons… Her mind was lost, and in its place all her tenderness, her affection, her emotions and her fragility blossomed…. as did mine. Alzheimer’s opened up a wonderful door of bonding and love between my mother and me.
I love you, mother. Thank you.