This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and I sent you a card. Hopefully, you will understand the words and remember who I am from my signature on the bottom. I wish I could be there with you, but since I can’t – please know that I love you and celebrate Mother’s Day with you.
I know you will not read this blog post, but I need to write it anyway – for me – as a tribute to you and as grief therapy for me.
Because I am grieving, Mom, at the slow disintegration of the woman you used to be. Your Alzheimer’s journey has taught me to value each day, love fully those who are in my life and never forget to make that love known.
But you are disappearing piece by fragile piece, and every time I see you – I am more aware of it.
So this letter to you, this blog post, is my way of telling you and the cyberspace world what you mean to me.
Many experts have written about the unique bond between mothers and daughters. We depend so deeply on each other, filling a particular emotional need that no one else can touch. I think you and I are especially close because we share some of the same personality traits, not to mention a love for Jamoca Chocolate anything.
You taught me how to bake bread, using our ancestors’ Mennonite recipe, but you also showed me how to test when the bread was ready. Bread dough wears a specific sheen and feel when the kneading ends and the rising begins. I can still bake bread by touch.
You also taught me how to crochet and embroider, making those tiny stitches that look great on both sides of the fabric. I make hand-woven gifts and pray a blessing over each project, asking God to touch the heart of the recipient. I think of you whenever I give something away.
By your example, you taught me to love books. We read 7-10 books/week, and I still love reading. So do you, even though you no longer comprehend the words and you read the same book over and over. To me, that is one of the saddest effects of this demon Alzheimer’s.
Do you know, Mom, that I am a published author? All those years of reading finally resulted in the birthing of my soul’s words. My novel, “The Unraveling of Reverend G” is dedicated to caregivers and many of the examples in the book come from my experiences with your Alzheimer’s and Dad’s dementia. I am hoping my words will encourage others.
You always insisted that we use proper grammar and by insisting that we do chores on the farm, you taught self-discipline and a strong work ethic. The weeds I pulled in the pecan orchard, the hours I spent milking the cow and helping during wheat harvest – those qualities also play into my writing life. In fact, today I am using self-discipline to write this blog post when I would rather be digging in my garden, planting yellow blooms with red centers. You taught me the value and joy of planting seeds that result in happiness.
I remember your fingers pulling my long hair tight and weaving it into the braids I wore every day. Your skills as a nurse helped keep me healthy, even when I hated taking medicine. You spread fabric on the floor, cut it into puzzle shapes and then sewed it into a dress – all for me.
You worked long hours so that I could attend the Christian high school of my choice and the college that offered the best education in my field without the burden of student loans that would follow me into adulthood. Thank you for that, Mom.
You taught me how to save money by ignoring the impulses of my peers. I learned that I didn’t have to look like everybody else or own the same things as my friends. You showed me that my value lay in who I am rather than in what I own or what I look like.
I never realized how totally exhausted you must have been after a day’s work. Even then, you cooked our evening meal and drove to school activities to cheer me on. Only the love of a mother enlists that type of strength.
Ahead of your time, you taught me that women should think on their own and pursue a career – just in case. That it’s okay to vote differently from your friends and even worship in a style, different from the norm. You taught me to think independently and not be afraid to step into the world with self-confidence and courage.
Oh, you weren’t perfect, Mom. None of us are. But even then, you taught me that perfection is not the goal. Perfection teaches that if we can’t always be perfect, we feel like failures.
Rather, the goal is in the attempt and in the perseverance to try again. Then, when we fail, we give ourselves grace, grieve a bit and go forward once again. It is in the attempts and the perseverance that our character grows, no matter what life throws at us.
Guess what? That quality also helped me become a published author.
So, Mom, on this weekend of remembrance when people buy flowers and send cards – I just want you to know that you did a good job.
And even though life has handed you a lousy disease, you’re still trying every day to put one foot before the other and learn contentment in your new apartment at assisted living.
Above all, Mom, I thank you for being so brave and I love you for showing me how.
©2013 RJ Thesman