Why do we continually take photographs, in all types of social situations, but when we are with someone who has Alzheimer’s we forget to get the camera or phone out to immortalize that moment?
Could it be that we are determined not to remember our loved one in that phase of their life, but rather how they were before the illness?
And could this not be a subtle way of ignoring the reality of that loved one, of denying reality, and thereby also denying the person?
So many times, when seeing my mother absent, with her head drooping or mouth hanging open, have I felt a stab of pain in my chest. And, automatically, my mind brings forward an image of her when she was younger, and was able to recognise me and speak to me, an image of when “she was herself.” So many photos of times enjoyed in the past take me back to that image that my heart so yearns for, photos I took or that others took of us together.
And one day I understood, that if I went “there” I wasn’t “here”, and if I wasn’t here I couldn’t be with her, in the present moment which is the only reality in which we can connect and feel close to one another. This is why I decided to take photos of her, lots of photos, alone or with her grand-daughters, or with my brother and myself. By so doing I am creating the images that will also allow me to remember my mother this way, how she is today.
And the thing is that she is the same person today as she has always been. Her gestures, her apparent absence, her changed personality, are just the surface through which I must look to once again find myself with her.
This is why I take photos of her, and each photo penetrates that surface, each click says:
“I see you, mum, and I accept you just as you are” .
I am sure that when I focus the camera, and I say “mum, a photo”, she feels the great big “yes” that my eyes and my whole being are conveying to her.