I read a lot about Alzheimer’s and dementia. A lot. Still, every now and then I come across something that grabs hold of me and won’t let go, because it reads exactly – and I mean exactly – like my own experience. Despite the fact that I tell people all the time, “we’re in this together” and “what you’re feeling is normal,” I sometimes forget those things apply to me, too!
Tonight, I read one of the most poignant essays I’ve ever seen discussing a topic that’s very close to my heart. In fact, it’s the subject of my contribution (Learning Acceptance) to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living With Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias.
In his piece for Maria Shriver’s blog, Dr. Daniel C. Potts writes about reaching a point of acceptance – realizing that your loved one as you once knew them is gone, but their core remains very much intact. Always. Even dementia can’t strip them of their essence. It simply cannot.
The key, then, is accepting the person they are now.
“Because you are not what I would have you be,
I blind myself to who, in truth, you are.”
– Madeleine L’ Engle
And this is my story. I was full of denial, anger, and sadness for such a long time. I wish I’d arrived at “Mom-for-me is gone but Mom is still here” much, much sooner than I did, because once that happened, everything changed. Our relationship blossomed again; I had an overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude for her. It sounds so cliché, but it was truly a beautiful time. I just hope she felt it as strongly as I did.
This will all make more sense after you read Dr. Potts’ essay, Letting Go: A Lesson on Love.
I can’t help but wonder if I’d read this years ago, would it have hastened the process of letting go? In honesty, probably not. I think it would have given me a lot to think about, but I believe each of us has to reach own conclusion in due time. I think our hearts arrive at that place when they’re ready and not a minute sooner. Still, it’s difficult not to have some regrets.
I’m very grateful to Dr. Potts for putting his perfect words around an experience that is nearly impossible to describe. Tonight, on the 16-month anniversary of my mom’s passing, I feel a sense of comfort in knowing I’m not alone on this journey…