Last week, I wrote about my Mom’s fight with Alzheimer’s. With the passage of time, the memories of that time are not quite so painful and the stories are a little easier to share. Seven years ago, in the middle of November, we took another step in the battle we knew we would never win – we moved Mom to a to a level three/four care home – the final step in her war with Alzheimer’s. Her disease had progressed to the point where she now needed more specialized care and she would reside behind closed and locked doors for her own safety for her remaining days.
I was constantly amazed at the puzzle that had become Mom’s memory, and at the holes and gaps that had become a part of her life. Yet there were some things she always remembered. To the end, she recognized her children, although she was not always sure who her grandchildren were. In those final years, she often talked about the “three nuns” who resided in the last apartment building she lived in prior to her disease. There never were three nuns living there, but she has inserted a memory into one of the newly created gaps in her mind, and she never forgot that piece of false information. Rarely a visit went by that she didn’t mention them. Perhaps she found comfort and safety in this recollection, as she had spent her childhood living in a convent, going home only for holidays and the summer. She always spoke lovingly of her days there and kept in contact with the sisters throughout all of her life. It may be that she was seeking the safety provided to her as a child, and somehow found comfort in falsely remembering the three sisters who lived in her building. Through-out her life, one of Mom’s biggest pleasures was attending church. When she was independent, she went every Sunday, often walking to church from her home. After she moved to the first care home, a level one/two home, I would try to drive her to church most Sundays. She enjoyed the service itself and she loved visiting with other parishioners. She looked forward to these Sunday outings. As she began to lose her sense of time, she was often confused as to what day it was. “Is it Sunday today?” became the other item she always remembered each time I saw her. If I informed her that it not Sunday, she always remarked, “So, there is no church today”.
One day, as Mom and I drove to a coffee shop, she asked me if it was Sunday. I was just about to say no, when she remarked “No it isn’t - there’s no Sunday this week”. At first I thought her comment was humorous, but then it struck me that this could well be a metaphor for what her life had become. There were “no Sundays” in her life anymore, because even if she attended church, she would have forgotten by the next day. Visits with her family and friends faded from memory almost as soon as they walked out the door. Each day was as confusing as the one before. There was no longer anything special about Sunday, it had simply become another day, no different than a any other day. There was, in fact, “no Sunday this week” for Mom anymore.
So, for those of us who still have Sundays in our week, let’s savour every moment. Let us relish time with family and friends and enjoy each activity in our lives. Let’s live each day to its fullest. Hopefully, we will always have a Sunday in our week.