Something profound strikes at your core when you sit in the presence of a loved one whose memories are gradually fading away. You grapple with a flood of emotions and come face to face with life's harsh realities.
This is my experience during my visit with my mom in Brazil, who is battling Alzheimer's. It was a journey filled with tears, laughs, and moments of joy and sorrow. Yet through it all, I have gained valuable insights.
The Present is a Gift: My mom, once a repository of family histories, can no longer recall past events, people, or places with clarity. It hurts to see her struggle to identify me or my siblings, but it also reminds me of the significance of the present moment.
With her, I lived in the now - we laughed, held hands, we enjoyed the sunlight streaming in the open patio. It's all we had and was a constant reminder to appreciate the beauty of the present moment, for it truly is a gift.
Patience is a Virtue: Being with someone suffering from Alzheimer's is a test of patience. Repeating the same questions, explaining familiar faces or places over and over again, can be draining. In every visit we had the same conversation dozens of times. Yet, in these moments, I learned the immense value of patience and how to offer it generously.
It's a skill that I need to work on, and I hope it will translate to other aspects of my life, be it work or personal relationships, and it will make me a kinder, more understanding person.
Compassion Transcends Memory: My mom may not remember my name, but her face lit up every time I entered the room. There was a spark of recognition, not of me as her child, but of me as someone she loves. She could feel the warmth and comfort I brought her (as well as the chocolates), even if she couldn't articulate it.
Love and compassion are incredibly powerful. They transcend the boundaries of memory and cognition, speaking a language the heart understands even when the mind does not.
Find Joy in Simple Things: One of the most surprising outcomes from this journey has been the newfound appreciation for the simple things in life. Mom finds joy in feeding the birds, enjoying candy, or listening to her favorite song from the past. Seeing her happiness in these small moments has inspired me to seek out and appreciate my life's simple joys.
Grief is a Journey, Not a Destination: Coming to terms with my mom's diagnosis has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I've learned that it's okay to grieve, to feel the loss of the person she once was. But it's also important to remember that grief isn't a place to stay. It's a process, a journey that leads to acceptance and peace.
Visiting my mom with Alzheimer's was a heartrending experience, but it has reshaped my perspective on life. It has brought me to appreciate the Present and prompted me to be patient, compassionate, and vulnerable and to find joy in simplicity. It's a challenging journey, but the lessons I've learned are invaluable. As I continue to walk this path alongside her, I am reminded of the strength and resilience inherent in the human spirit.
Perhaps the most powerful lesson I have learned from my mom, in her current state, is the power of unconditional love. Despite the changes in her mind and memory, her ability to express love in her unique and often nonverbal ways remains. It is a potent reminder that while Alzheimer's may rob someone of their memories, it cannot steal their capacity to love and be loved. And for me, that is something I had not considered before.
So, as I continue to navigate this complex journey of being the child of a parent with Alzheimer's, I am grateful for these moments with Mom. Though Alzheimer's is a cruel disease, it has deepened my perspective on life, love, and the essence of what it truly means to be human. And for that, I am thankful.