Not yet a subscriber? Why not subscribe now - it's Free and it's Easy. Click here if already a subscriber.

Become a Christian Life in London subscriber and stay up to date with the latest Christian news, contests, events and information in London.
* Required Fields
This is a FREE subscription,
and you can unsubscribe at anytime.
Word Verification

Become a Christian Life in London subscriber and help spread the word, you will be entered in our monthly draws for great prizes, AND the more friends** you recommend, you will receive one additional entry per each one of those subscriptions.

Suggest Friends   

* Required Fields
This is a FREE subscription,
and you can unsubscribe at anytime.
** Friends
Your friends will not be subscribed automatically,
they will receive an email asking if they would like to subscribe.

Lost on Memory Lane
BookMark - Not Forsaken: Finding Freedom as Sons & Daughters (BOOK REVIEW)
Renegotiating Faith The Delay in Young Adult Identity Formation and What It Means for the Church in Canada
Canadian Theaters Cancel ‘Unplanned’ Movie Showings After ‘Personal Threats’ Against Employees and Their Families
It’s A Wrap – The 2018 Alpha Program Review
Find Your Tribe
News Briefs from The Canadian Christian News Service
The Pastor's Mother and the Usher (HUMOUR)

By Liz Hayward

We all went out for a delicious dinner on her 75th birthday, and then back to her place for delicious double-chocolate cake and presents. We snapped pictures to commemorate the event. Her happiness showed only in her smile, but that was Mom – never loud or boisterous; a shy, quiet soul who didn’t talk much but loved to observe - a perfectionist in every way. I am just like her. We would never leave bread crumbs on the counter or dust bunnies in the corners of the kitchen, yet there they were. I quickly dismissed it.

More than six years have passed since that occasion - the last time Mom had all of her four children together and the first time I noticed the signs that something was amiss with her.

Due to distance, our visits were infrequent, yet when we did get together in the coming months there were other signs. Bill, Mom's partner of 20 years, made a nonchalant comment, "Your mother only makes breakfast now. We eat out every day for lunch and dinner."

On another visit as Mom and I sat chatting she casually informed me, "I went for some testing, but couldn't answer some of the questions like 'Can you name an animal with four legs?'"

"Can you think of one now?" I asked.

"No," she answered. Although I thought it odd, I still didn't connect the dots.

Then Mom called me for my birthday. Actually, it was Bill who dialed the phone for her. I heard him explain, "It's Elizabeth. Say Happy Birthday." She said "hi" in her soft voice. We talked for a bit - well, it was me who did most of the talking. She never did say 'Happy Birthday.' I don't even think she knew it was me on the other end. As I hung up the phone it finally clicked - Mom has dementia.

Bill continued to hide Mom's condition from others for two more years until he couldn't anymore. She not only forgot how to cook and clean, but to care for herself. Worst of all, she was rapidly losing her words and it was difficult to make sense of what she did say.

With Mom's dementia and Bill's failing eyesight their once busy lives ground to a screeching halt - no more walks, long drives, bike rides, bus excursions, bowling tournaments or rounds of golf. The loss of their daily routine left Mom more confused and Bill more frustrated.

In the spring of 2010, I moved Mom and Bill into a brand new long term care facility in London, just five minutes from my home. They placed Mom into a locked ward and Bill into an open one.

Their lives took a dramatic turn once again as they lost their independence. My life changed as well. I felt like their parent. I became their advocate, hairdresser, manicurist, errand runner, taxi driver and only frequent visitor. Due to his loss of vision, Bill refused to participate in any of the home activities and gradually sank into depression. He became a quiet recluse who would lie on his bed all day waiting for his meals or a visit from me and my mom. Mom reverted to a sweet and compliant little girl who walked and talked incessantly - words only she understood.

Now that I saw Mom three times a week, I was able to clearly notice further changes - the regression. Her new best friend was her reflection. She laughed and talked to herself as she stood in front of the mirror. She became a hoarder of napkins, cups, cutlery and cookies neatly placed in her bedside table. Mom also picked up the funny habit of layering her clothes no matter what the weather. Many hot summers days I found her looking like the Michelin Man wearing four pairs of pants, three sweaters and two pairs of socks. Each time I would gently remove the extra layers before we went for our walk.

Walking was the one thing that still connected us - we both loved to walk no matter what the weather. Mom lit up every time she saw me. She knew I was coming to take her on her stroll. As we walked along the pathway she loved to stop and point at all the flowers. To my amazement she dodged all the geese droppings around the pond and had no trouble keeping up with my fast pace. Each time we took the same route, as routine can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, but that wasn’t the case for Mom.

It's been four years since her official diagnosis and the effects of the disease are obvious and aggressive. Mom, who is now 81, no longer lights up when she sees me. Her face is expressionless. We still go for walks, but I'm the only one walking now - Mom's wheelchair carries her frail 107 pound frame. She no longer comments on the weather or the flowers. She barely speaks at all.

Alzheimer's is a thief who snuck in and stole my mom from me. I resent it and I feel cheated, but I also have resolve. I've come to terms with losing her, probably because I already have - somewhere down Memory Lane. I miss her.

Although this journey has been extremely difficult, there is a positive side. I look forward to the day I will laugh, talk and walk with Mom again in heaven. I take comfort in knowing Mom has no idea what has happened to her. I’m grateful she felt no pain when Bill passed away a few months back, because he slipped from her memory long ago. I take solace in keeping her closet and drawers organized, coordinating her outfits, and brushing her hair as she would. Most of all, I am thankful for the many wonderful memories I have with Mom. Alzheimer's will never rob me of those!

Liz Hayward © 2014