A few days ago we celebrated in our hearts my mother-in-law’s birthday. She would have been 90 years old and it was the first time we couldn’t hug her and do something special for her.
Earlier this year, after long years in the grip of Alzheimer’s we said a final goodbye to my husband’s mother, my dear mother-in-law. There were many goodbyes over the years, every time she slipped into another stage of this devastating disease we bid her farewell, we shed tears, and consoled ourselves that although she did not know us any longer, we know who she is, that we will treasure that realization, and do everything we can to maintain that part of her. Was she aware of it? We do not know, but after a painful period of anger, frustration and hostility, she slipped into a stage of comfort and peace. We got big smiles, there were moments of lucidity where she remembered our names, but they became more scarce until there was no recognition at all. But she was happy, smiled a lot, and it gave us relative peace of mind. She was beautifully cared for, and her caregivers were loving and attentive. Everything was done to make her comfortable. She did not suffer when the end came; she went to sleep, never woke up, and finally transitioned with a deep breath.
Watching someone dying of Alzheimer’s is painful and heartbreaking. It is not only one death one mourns but many over the years. The loved one slowly disappears and fades away. Those moments of lucidity are like the sunshine breaking through the clouds, sometimes just an instant, sometimes a little longer. And then they are gone completely. It seemed these last few years that she was really living on the other side, talking with her deceased husband and parents long gone. Over the years, sitting next to her, I asked myself questions like: Was she waiting for something or someone? Were we supposed to do something? What experiences did she still want to live? But there were no answers. I knew she will pass on when “her” time came and when she was ready. I was able to find the peace within me to accept it all.
Why do I write this today? Maybe you are going through an experience like this and just knowing that you are not alone brings relief. It also brings clarity that life should be enjoyed to the fullest when one can; we do not know how many tomorrows we will have. So let’s celebrate the now by being grateful for who we are and where we are. Let’s not wait to celebrate life until it is too late; let’s celebrate now and enjoy every precious moment!