The Vanishing

The strangest thing about the death of my mother is the vanishing.  That a person can be on this earth one minute and gone the next, seems like a cruel magic trick that I’m still trying to figure out.  As I reflect on her disappearance, I realize the slight of hand happened years ago and the vanishing was just the grand finale.

Dementia is a terminal brain disease.

I knew this but I didn’t know it.  Terminal is just a word I used to add weight and truth to mom’s disease because you’d be surprised at how many people don’t know this.  So I said it to help raise awareness and educate, and to help me say out loud in a euphemistic way — my mother is dying.

I thought I was prepared, even ready for my mother’s death.  But it was the concept of her death I was ready for, not the real thing.  In the beginning, “has dementia, will die” was loud and clear in my subconscious, then towards the end my concept was that death would be a kindness that couldn’t come soon enough.

But vanishing from the face of the earth?

It may have helped if I had replaced the word die with vanish and had been saying things like “my mother is vanishing from dementia,” or “my mother is receiving hospice care and could vanish in three to six months.”

A friend warned me about this.  She said “you may think you’re ready, but when your mom dies it will feel like you’ve been hit by a truck.”   I believed her, but “hit by a truck” was another abstract concept.  Another friend said the death of a parent is a “ground-shifting sadness.”  This rings true as I try to find my footing on this new and  shaky ground.

My mother vanished last month.

I’m sad, but I’ll be okay —  I’m just a little surprised at the size of the truck.

~  Joanne

9 thoughts on “The Vanishing”

  1. Yes to all of the above. I totally feel your pain, even 8 years later. Being human is a terminal state, really. I love the way you think and feel and share with us. Thank you, Joanne!


    1. joanne, i love your blogs!! so true to everything you write. my dad passed away over 20 years ago, i’m still surprised at the size of the truck. i miss and think about him every single day.

    2. Laura and Kris, thank you for reading and sharing. I’m sorry for both of your losses so long ago but still so fresh. When we keep our parents in our hearts, they’re never completely gone. Big hugs to you both. xo J.

  2. You are so strong, so honest, and so amazing, Jo! There are no words, but I love you and I am here! Looking forward to seeing you soon!

  3. My mom vanished almost two years ago and I still have a hole in my heart the size of the Grand Canyon. The most surreal experience for me was to stay in her home, among her favorite things, and she just wasn’t there. It was if she’d be home any minute but then never show up. I finally deleted my voicemails off my cell phone yesterday and three old messages were from her. I knew they were there and I still can’t bring myself to “press 7 to delete.” I will probably die with this same cell phone because I always want to keep her voice close. Sharing your pain EVERY day, friend. Thinking of you as you navigate your grief.

    1. My dear Deb, I remember when your mom died and how difficult that was for you, and yet I didn’t know. I feel like I’ve joined a new club and there are plenty of people who joined this club before me, you included. I am so sorry for the loss of your dear mother and for what you’ve had to go through during these last two years without her. I think I can imagine what that would be like to be in your mom’s home without her, we’ve sort of eased into getting used to that since my mom moved out a year before she vanished. But it’s still weird calling it “my dad’s house.” I don’t have any voicemails from my mom (because she stopped calling so long ago), but if I did, I don’t think I could delete them either. I’ll be thinking of you too, my co-navigator, and as always, thank you for sharing and for your support.

  4. Joanne beautifully descriptive. Having had 6 beloved vanishings in my life, my heart knows this too. The heart never forgets. I am glad you are surrounded with love and support. Namaste Ginger

    1. “Beloved vanishings.” So beautifully said Ginger, that could be a title for a poem. Sounds like you have some practice with this vanishing business. I hope you’ve been surrounded by love and support as well. Namaste back . . . . J.

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