My head is spinning from our 10 day whirlwind road trip…but, we’re home. I’m trying to adjust to the surreal reality of one more boy’s bedroom being empty, but I’m also looking forward to a day of “playing house”. I’m just itching to get cleaning and rearranging. It’s been far too long.
But, before I get out the brooms and dusting cloths, I want to share a special story ~ not just because I think you’ll like it, but because I don’t want to forget it myself.
Long before my mom was diagnosed with dementia, I watched a movie called “Awakenings”. Unfortunately, I have only a vague recollection of the details of the movie. I do, however, remember the basic concept being a man who developed some kind of medication that caused nearly comatose patients with dementia to come “back to life” again. If I remember correctly, the cure had only short term effects and I ended up sobbing as the movie finished.
I’ve thought of that concept a lot as I ponder my mom’s dementia. I wonder what it would be like if somehow her mind would clear and she would “come to life” again. I long to communicate with the person I remember her to be ~the woman who loved to talk and laugh and sing and give wise advice. The challenge for me is to live in the current reality ~ being grateful for who she was and loving her as she is.
My siblings graciously try to prepare me ahead of time before each visit with my mom. When I only see her seldomly, the changes in her condition can be incredibly shocking. Last year was the first time I’d seen her since her speech was gone. They had prepared me for that, but oh, I found it hard to not hear one word from her once vibrant and chatty self.
This year they prepared me that she might be afraid of me. I prayed fervently that my once-a-year visit wouldn’t end badly…but, honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. The nature of the illness is unpredictable, to say the least.
I braced my heart as I tentatively walked up to her that day (6 days ago). As I leaned over to say “hi” to her, her eyes met mine with only confusion.
I chattered like a crazy little magpie as I cheerfully “introduced” my husband and youngest boy. We were strategically doing this in an effort to not overwhelm and scare her.
I couldn’t tell, honestly, if she was afraid,annoyed,ready to bolt, or just fine! We proceeded to pull up chairs and try to “visit” with her over the overbearing noise of a tv blaring in the room. It wasn’t the ideal location, but we couldn’t convince her to get out of her chair to go to a more pleasant location.
UNTIL we asked this question,
“Mom, do you want to come sing with us?”
Immediately she grabbed the arm of the chair and stood up. We reached for her hand and headed into the dining room where the piano was.
Our youngest son was along with us that day. I know from first hand experience that situations like this can be very awkward for a teenager, so I had handed him my camera and said, “Just take some pictures if you’d like.”
Little did I know what a photographer he’d be! I’m so grateful for all the candid shots he took…so our little “miracle moment” is well documented!
As we got mom all situated by the piano, I sat at the bench and opened the book of hymns the nursing home had available.
As I flipped through the pages, my mind was whirling at top speed. Although I grew up taking piano lessons, I haven’t played even one note for at least 3 years. I prayed that I would somehow remember the basics… Desperate times call for desperate measures, you know!
I can’t even remember the first song we tried, but it wasn’t long until our own “Awakenings” moment happened.
Mom started to sing along.
Words seem woefully inadequate as I try to describe that moment. It was as if time and seasons had melted away and we had a teeny tiny glimpse of the Mom who was ~ this dear woman who had not spoken for well over a year…was suddenly singing like she did for so many years.
Song after song.
It is Well with My Soul. Amazing Grace. Trust and Obey. Great is Thy Faithfulness.
The combination of the incredulous moment and the words of the songs affected us deeply. Every now and then a tear would sneak out of our eyes. And, as I peeked at mom while singing…
a tear snuck out of hers, too.
It was a gift straight from our amazing Creator who designed our brains so intricately! I just don’t understand.
But, I’m grateful He does.
After about 10 songs, we realized mom had probably had enough. The dining room was filling up for the lunch hour, and she seemed like she was anxious not to miss is.
As we stood up to say good-bye, I saw in Mom’s eyes what my brother had warned me about.
She suddenly seemed afraid of me.
My heart sunk, and I just didn’t want to leave with that as my last memory.
I so longed to give her a hug and kiss her downy hair and tell her I loved her. So, I took a deep breath, and kept talking.
“Mom, we’re going to have to go soon, but I’d really like to give you a hug first. Would that be ok?”
Of course, there is never any response, so I just gently did it anyway.
I teased my husband and son that my hug got her all warmed up, because after that, she very willingly & eagerly hugged (and squeezed!) both of them!
Before we walked out the door, I asked my husband to take one more picture of mom and I. We lined up for our little photo shoot. Right before he snapped the picture, he “peeked” out from behind it and said to Mom,
“Oh, I think you can give me a little smile, can’t you?”, and this is what happened.
That smile is so precious to me…
I can’t tell this story without thanking my sister-in-law for being with us that day. She helps me put my courage on when I go for my once-a-year visits with mom. Her kindness and care and confidence are exactly what I need to help me through these bittersweet visits, and I think she’s walked me through each one since mom has been diagnosed! As these scenes unfolded, she whipped out her IPhone and got some footage of Mom singing.
If you are looking for some awesome music to put on your ITunes, this won’t be it, but for those of you who’ve known my mom, I thought you may find this to be a gift, too.
And, as a humorous side note: My mom was our church pianist for many years. She was good. Really good. I, however, am not!:) I found it quite funny when she would scowl down at the piano keys when I’d hit a wrong note…and I hit many! It still amazes me how our minds work. And for you moms who are struggling to get your kids to practice music lessons, you might try telling them that if someday their minds start to slip, music is the last thing to go.
I think that’s an incredible fact!