Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bearing Gifts

It's just over two years since my mother died and I have thought about her every day since.

In the early days I could remember only how she was when she was in the grip of Alzheimer's Disease. Her helplessness and despair as the mists began to swirl and she knew she would soon cease to be counted as a person who mattered and become instead an object of pity - someone of lesser value. Then that blank stare, the rage in her eyes when she became agitated in the late afternoon. 'Go awaaaay!' she'd scream.

It was so painful and exhausting to watch, relieved only by the joy of witnessing my father's devotion to my mother - his sweetheart of 65 years.

These days I remember other times. She was funny, my mother, with a wide smile that revealed one slightly crooked eye tooth. I remember how excited she was to see me, how she refused to allow me to help her in the kitchen when I visited because I was her honoured guest. It's hard to lose that kind of love and especially hard  to lose it to Alzheimer's.

But my mother's disease also brought with it many gifts, one of which was completely unexpected.

When my book, Alzheimer's: a Love Story, was first published, I dreaded hearing readers' stories. My own experience was so raw I thought it would be too painful for me to hear about other people's. But to my surprise I found that I loved it, and I could see too how much it meant to these strangers to share their stories.

Gradually I realised that it's because these journeys we take as we farewell those we love are so lonely and so difficult but also so rich and rewarding that they change us forever. When we tell each other about our journeys, these readers and I, we recognise our fellowship and we feel less alone.

I mention all this now because I am discussing my experience next Sunday at the Well-Being group in the hall at 2pm at St Mark's Anglican Church, 21 Beatty Street, Reservoir (just off Gilbert Road).

Come along if you're free, and join us for what I know will be a moving and enjoyable afternoon.


  1. You made me cry.
    But I already cried for Booba this morning when Indi couldn't stop crying for no reason and I wished Booba was here to cuddle her and say 'oh darling' like she would to me.

  2. I followed a friends journey through Alzheimer's and know full well how devastating it can be. I shall check out your book.

    My friend's wife has wanted to write about her experience with him but hesitates. Your book well might help. Thanks. It's good to meet you here.

  3. Hi Elisabeth, nice to 'meet' you too.

    It was painful for me to write about my mother's Alzheimer's, but it also helped, because it forced me to concentrate on the writing process. That took my mind off what was going on, and allowed me to be myself as writer and not just as daughter.

    It might be helpful for your friend's wife to work on shaping her experience or it might just be too painful. I found it very worthwhile, and now I have a permanent tribute to my mother - and my father too.