If life had gone the way I’d planned, I wouldn’t know much about Alzheimer’s disease.
I would probably be organizing a party for your 60th birthday at Pappadeaux or Chuy’s instead of selling shirts and bracelets to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association in your memory. I would probably be naive and foolish, wasteful with time and not counting every blessing God has given me.
It makes me sad that my memories of you during your illness overshadow my memories of you before your illness. I am 29 years old, and you were sick for almost 12 of those years. I have become so accustomed to not having a relationship with you in recent years that it’s actually very difficult to imagine what my life would be like if you were still a tangible part of it.
Our last “good” visit
After awaiting your passing and the end of your suffering for so long, I had no idea I would miss visiting you so much, even though you couldn’t respond to me. I vividly remember my last “good” visit with you, about a month before you died, when (my brother) Russell and I came to see you the day before Mother’s Day. I wish we had taken a picture of the three of us that day. You were unusually alert. Russell wheeled you outside for some fresh air and sunshine, and you smiled and tried to speak to me several times. Like so many previous visits, I wanted so desperately to know what you were saying, thinking, seeing. I had no idea the next time I saw you, you would be unconscious on your deathbed.
I would tell you about all of my blessings
If I could have you back for just an instant, I would want you to hug and kiss your granddaughter. If I could talk to you one more time, I would tell you how much I love and appreciate you and that I had no idea what an incredible joy and responsibility motherhood is until I experienced it myself. If I could have you back for just a few precious minutes, I would tell you about all of my blessings.
My little ray of sunshine
I would tell you that, in just 20 months, my daughter has already taught me so much about myself, about real love and about the incredible influence a mother has on a child. I would tell you everything about my little ray of sunshine–how “dog” was her first word; how she loves Mexican food and being outside; how “licky dog,” as you called Mia when she was a puppy, was her first pal; how it is both sweet and scary that she mimics everything I say and do; how she often says “baby” and points to my growing belly; how she already loves to pick out her own clothes.
I would tell you that she is funny, beautiful, curious, brilliant and very opinionated! I would tell you how her contagious joy kept me going while you were dying. And I would tell you how excited and terrified I am to have another little girl to love and protect in just a few weeks.
Your domestic talents
I would thank you for your detailed notes in my baby book that somewhat prepared me for my first daughter’s birth and for saving some of my baby clothes and blankets to use for my own daughters. I would tell you how I display your artwork, antiques and family heirlooms in my home and how I use some of your gardening, craft and kitchen tools on a regular basis. I would tell you how I recently started selling antiques and how I am trying really hard to be less of a hoarder than you (Grandma says she’s a “collector” not a hoarder, ha).
I would tell you how I feel closest to you when I am gardening, how I still have the key lime tree we accidentally smuggled out of Florida after going to Disney World. I would tell you how your granddaughter loves to “help” me in the vegetable garden or flowerbed, moving dirt or mulch wherever she pleases. I would tell you how I love to cook and bake but am terrible at sewing and wish I had paid more attention to your domestic talents.
I would tell you that I know how blessed I am to have a patient, supportive husband who is such a loving and attentive father to our daughter. I would tell you how my mother-in-law has helped me survive every difficult time and celebrate every joyous time and has become a close and trusted friend. And I would tell you how your sweet friend Cheryl still watches over me and loves your granddaughter and me as if we were her own daughters and granddaughters.
I would tell you how proud you would be of Russell and how he reflects your patient and compassionate spirit, how he blesses the lives of people who are often overlooked and devalued, how he is making courageous changes to better his life and has found an honest and supportive girlfriend who is a strong-willed only child like you. I would tell you how your absence has strengthened my relationship with both him and Grandma.
I would tell you how my journey through your illness brought me closer to God and taught me to trust Him more fully. I would tell you that your disease gave me a reason to write and a desire to connect with others through their struggles.
In a way, your illness prepared me for motherhood. Your disease taught me to abandon perfectionism and seek beauty in little everyday things. You became like an innocent and dependent child who required love, patience, understanding and constant attention. In many moments, I think I actually saw glimpses of you as a child–sweet, joyful and sensitive.
Thank you for instilling in me a passion for creating, whether through preparing a meal, growing a plant, planning an event, decorating my home or writing my blog, and for teaching me to always pursue truth and never stop learning.
You were my first blessing.