What I remember the most from my recent visit with my mother is how she looked. She has a look to her that’s difficult to describe, but which I’ll never forget. It’s a shuffling, stooped look combined with an ashen complexion and empty eyes that I can best describe in one word — GONE.
Does that sound awful? I don’t mean it to. Is there a better word to describe my mother? I’m sure there is, but I like this word right now. Gone baby, gone.
Tying shoes, zipping up, getting dressed, gone. Bathing, toileting, hygiene, gone. Conversation, comprehension, self-determination, gone.
I suppose I could get sentimental and tell you how she’s here too. How she always says my name at some point during my week long visits. How she isn’t looking at me when she says it, but releases it like a butterfly to the wind for me to gently catch. And that she probably doesn’t know why she says it, but she does — because something remembers, and that means part of her is still here.
Hugging, smiling, humor, here. Walking, talking, helping, here. Laughing, loving, saying my name, here.
She’s here and she’s gone all at the same time, and I see one or the other depending on the moment, my perspective, and even my mood. She can be hard to find, and sometimes seeing my mother as gone is easier than finding her here.
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Here’s a quick report from my mom’s hospice nurse yesterday:
They are still trying to move mom’s sleep cycle. She was previously sleeping from 7pm to about 3am, which is bad enough, but now she sleeps from 6pm to 1 to 3am, which isn’t good. Mom needs more help eating, and she looks like she’s lost more weight. (Weigh-in next week.) She is still walking, but is not as steady on her feet. These are the things we are watching — sleep, eating, weight, walking.
The good news is that mom appears comfortable and at ease. There is no distress in her face or demeanor and she is still able to smile and be happy. This is amazing to me and such a testament to the power of a positive spirit.
Out of respect for my mother, I will never post pictures of the “gone” woman that I described. She looks pretty good in her pictures, which is one of the reasons Alzheimer’s can be so invisible.