Last week, I and a friend went to the Jann Arden concert held at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre. I have been to several Arden concerts over the years and always enjoy both her songs and the stories she tells in between songs. One of her most humorous topics has always been about her mother. Arden always tells funny, tongue-in-cheek stories about her Mom. I wondered, however, if she would do that this time. Her mother now suffers from Alzheimer’s and I knew that she had recently been placed in a special care home. Arden took care of her Mom, especially after her dad died, which allowed her to remain in her home for as long as possible. It finally got to the point where she needed care and supervision twenty-hours a day and Arden had no choice but to place her in a home.
As well as being a long-time Jann Arden fan, in recent years I have closely followed her blog and face book page as she journals about the journey she and her Mom are on as they battle her Mom’s Alzheimer. She also wrote a book “Feeding My Mother” which describes the joys and sorrows they are facing together. In the book, Arden shares recipes and talks about the good food she prepares for her Mom, trying to keep her healthy. Of course, in the end, all the food and love in the world does not protect our loved one from this cruel disease.
Arden’s experiences resonate with me because I and my family also travelled that road when my own Mom suffered from, and eventually died from, Alzheimer’s disease. As she chronicled her day-to-day activities of taking care of her Mom and the highs and lows of doing so, I found myself being drawn into the memories of my own Mom and the trials we faced. Jarden’s story brought back so many memories of that time. As her disease progressed, my family and I constantly learned new things about this unrelenting disease and its horrible effects on its victims and their families. We, as Arden did, had to make the decision to move mom into a special care home where she resided behind closed doors for her own safety. Until I read her book, I didn’t realize that I had buried those memories because they were still so raw. Now, four years after her death, and with gentle reminders from Arden’s own story, the memories are not so painful.
So, I wondered if Jann would be able to find humour in this new reality and if she would, in fact, joke about her Mom. She did; perhaps not as often as she has in past shows and her stories were a little more poignant. One story she told that really make me pause and think was that one day her Mom asked Jan, “How long have I known you?”. Jan, her voice reduced to a whisper, said “You have known me since the day I was born”. Arden mentioned that she is steeling herself for the day that her Mom no longer recognizes her. I remember preparing myself for that as well. We were fortunate in that Mom recognized her children until the end, but all her other memories were gone. I remember feeling so sad for her because of that. As I sat listening to Arden, I realized that I it was OK that Mom had lost those memories, because the really important ones – the ones she shared with me and with her other children – are not lost. We still have them. And her grandchildren, although she eventually no longer recognized them, still talk about her and all have special memories of her.
So, it’s OK, Mom – your memories are not lost. We remember.