Letting go of a loved one is something you can never really be ready for. My mom left this world in 2003 after a long battle with cancer, yet the day death came I wasn’t prepared. The humid Oklahoma air hung heavier than usual and my heart ached as I sat next to my mom’s bedside holding onto her hand for dear life, knowing that soon she would be gone. I tried to memorize her face, the softness of her hands and the smell of her lavender lotion. My Aunt, holding my mom’s other hand said through sorrowful tears “Jackie, it’s ok, we love you and you can let go now.” I couldn’t say it, I didn’t want her to go, she was my mom! In my heart I begged her not go, I remained silent, but inside I screamed and cried for my mom to stay with me. I never really knew the comfort her love provided me until her last breath and she was no more of this world. I’ve felt bad for not saying it was ok to go, but for all my life she never knew how much I needed her. I’d like to think that me being honest and somewhat selfish at the end, made her spirit soar to heaven feeling beyond loved and forever needed.
It’s been almost 13 years and still when I think of that day, I feel all those feelings as if it just happened. I want to be more benevolent in dealing with my dad’s disease, especially seeing him struggle so hard at this stage.
Hours on end he’ll try to figure out what is going on with his mind,but he no longer remembers what’s causing these problems and doesn’t realize that he’s saying the same things over and over. During these challenging times he’ll say, “Oh Lord, help me please! What is happening? Oh, Lord, please, help me. What am I doing? Please, someone help me, what is happening. I don’t understand. Lord please, HELP ME!”
We try to distract him, we’ll explain that it’s the dementia, we’ll tell him how sorry we are that it’s happening and it’ll stay with him for seconds and then he forgets what we just told him and he’s back to that horrible feeling that he’s loosing his mind….because he is. Sometimes distractions work and he’ll relax and enjoy the moment, but other times he wont let it go and we just tell him he’s asking the right guy.
I’ve heard people say, dementia is a difficult disease but to see a loved one, day in and day out struggle so hard trying to figure out what is happening, is a whole other beast of burden. A couple of weeks ago dad was going through a particularly rough time, unable make eye contact, he was pleading in desperation for help to understand what was happening, engulfed in his own world of dispare there was no connecting with him. Heart broken and feeling helpless I said the one thing I would never want to happen. Sitting on a little stool next to him in his chair I said “Dad, I’m okay if you need to go to the next stage of this disease and forget that I’m you daughter, if it helps you to not feel lost anymore.” After I said it out loud I began crying so hard my shoulders were doing the up and down shake as I gasped for air, my face drenched in tears and red splotches I let all my sadness out. I was mourning the loss of my dad as I’ve always known him to be and trying to make myself accept how things are now. To my astonishment he stops repeating his cycle of words, turns and looks directly at me with sympathy and attentiveness and says, “What’s wrong baby girl?” He placed one hand on the top of my head and ran it over my hair down to the side of my cheek and then cuped my face with both hands. So beyond grateful for this moment, I desprately tried to utter my feelings as my sobbing is now uncontrollable. Through gasps, I say, “I just miss you already, this sucks! I’m so sorry this is happening. I love you! Thank you for being here with me in this moment. I needed you, and you came back to me! I love you.” He pulls my head to him, gives me a huge love hug and says, “It’ll all work out baby girl, it’s ok. I love you.” Seconds later he was back to trying to figure out what was happening, but I had just experience the true endurance of love, a precious gift of a moment in time that will give me everlasting joy and help me get through the tough times to come.