The hardest part for me about dealing with the pain of loss caused by dementia is that just like dementia itself, you have no idea when it’s going to hit you. It happens to me at random moments in the day, not every day, but on enough days that it keeps me mindful, present, guilt ridden, and afraid.
This morning it hit me while I was in the kitchen making breakfast for my children. It was the happy sound of their voices instructing one another and their tiny giggles in the other room. I wondered how much longer they would sound like that – voices high-pitched and carefree – as I made my son’s usual “two toasts with butter and honey” and my daughter’s “bagel, sliced with cream cheese but put back together.” I was grateful they remained in the other room while I wiped the tears onto my shoulder and thought, “I miss the sound of you,” the “you” being my mother. I imagine her voice calling out to them sometimes, even though I don’t think she ever really knew my daughter’s name.
A few weeks ago, I read an article where the author wrote about how fortunate we are as mothers to not usually be aware of the last time we are able to pick up our children. Her words hit me so hard I could almost hear the thud in my heart. “When WAS the last time I was able to carry (my now 16 year old son)?”. And this morning, with a similar thud, I thought, “When WAS the last time I heard my Mom say my name?” It was many years ago now and I don’t think I’d be able to remember when exactly if I tried. Probably some time after my middle son was born but before my daughter was a few months old. I thought about what it might have been like to be mindful of that moment when it happened, and there’s a part of me that wishes I’d paid attention, but a part of me that’s grateful I didn’t.
I’m writing these thoughts down today because they needed to be let out, but also because I’m in the early stages of working on a project centered around mindfulness. It’s a cautionary tale to myself that while being mindful can help us become more effective leaders, followers (when needed), friends, and partners, it can also at times act as a weight on the heart. It is the greatest exercise in self-mastery I can think of – choosing to be present, aware, and managing the feelings that come with your awareness. But I can’t imagine my life without this practice – a practice born out of my experience of having a mother with dementia, a horrible divorce that turned out well in the end, and a life journey made more beautiful by becoming a military spouse and also by becoming a parent for the second and third time. I plan to share more about this project soon, but in the meantime, thanks for letting me get this mindful moment off my chest and into your mind and heart. I appreciate you reading this and I hope it gives you reason to pause and be present in the ordinary moments of daily life today. Lots of love…