Recently, I had a disturbing dream that on the surface sounds like a nightmare. In the dream, I saw my mother’s corpse. It wasn’t in a coffin, but placed on some kind of shelf. Then she woke up and began moaning and talking.
I remember in my dream trying to tell myself it was just a dream, as it is recommended to do to wake yourself from a nightmare. But instead of Mom going into full zombie mode on me, the dream took more of a domestic drama turn. Instead of being chased by a flesh-eating monster, I faced a chilling dilemma: how would I manage caring for my mother again? As with most dreams, there was no satisfying conclusion but lingering questions about housing and financial issues.
At least I know why I had such a bizarre dream. There was a story in the news about a woman in Detroit who had been declared dead but was found alive in a body bag hours later at a funeral home, where she was about to be embalmed. The images of the bodies of COVID-19 victims being stacked haphazardly in storage rooms and sheds has also haunted me.
It was a disturbing dream, but it intrigued me more than frightened me. This scenario has been played out in books and films but considering it from a caregiver’s perspective presents more practical questions than supernatural ones.
This week, musician Trini Lopez died. I immediately thought about my mother and how saying Trini’s name helped her in her recovery from a grueling cancer surgery.
I was familiar with many of my mother’s favorite musicians, which included Elvis and country legends like Hank Williams and Willie Nelson. But I had never heard of Trini Lopez until my mother became ill and required emergency surgery. Her mental state had taken a decline due to a delayed diagnosis, and she faced recovering from general anesthesia while being bedridden, trying to regain her physical strength.
Mom’s mental state bounced back pretty quickly, but there was one name she couldn’t remember to save her life, and it was an important one: her surgeon, Dr. Lopez. After many false starts, Mom came up with an unusual way to prompt her memory, by connecting the doctor with Trini Lopez, whose music she enjoyed as a young adult. When Dr. Lopez would make his rounds and Mom would be trying hard to remember his name, I would say, “Trini” as the clue and then Mom would say, “Lopez!” I’m sure the doctor thought we were a little, ahem, eccentric, but it worked every time.
It was one of the more lighthearted moments during Mom’s lengthy recovery period. I bought her a Trini Lopez CD when she returned home and she loved to play it. So it was fitting that when she died, that beloved Trini Lopez album was playing. I touch upon this in one of my essays in The Reluctant Caregiver.
I’ll always have fond memories of Trini Lopez for the joy that he brought my mother and the memory aid he provided in the hospital.
I recognize just about every blog that made this list, from the major organizations to the personal bloggers like myself. I was happy to see Alzheimer’s Daughter by Jean Lee, one of the founders of AlzAuthors, included on the list. Likewise, Kay Bransford does great work on her blog, Dealing with Dementia, covering important financial issues for those with dementia and their caregivers. Also making the list are two other blogs I frequently read, including The Caregiver’s Voice by Brenda Avadian and The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver by Rena McDaniel.
As many of you know, The Memories Project began back in 2012 as a tribute to my father, who died of Alzheimer’s. Over the years, it has grown into an awareness and advocacy blog for Alzheimer’s and other dementias, as well as their caregivers. I also documented my journey as my mother’s caregiver, who had colon cancer.
While it’s nice to be acknowledged, the true reward I receive for blogging is connecting with family caregivers and being given the opportunity to advocate for those who provide care for their loved ones. I’ve also learned so much from other caregivers. The caregiving community is smart, tough and compassionate and I am honored to be a part of it.
Hope you and your loved ones have a safe holiday weekend.
In addition to Fourth of July, Monday is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 83 years old. Mom served briefly in the Navy, but the lessons she learned helped shape the rest of her life. She valued her time in the Navy and supported those who served. I’m grateful that Mom saved all of her Navy memorabilia, so I have everything from photos to newspaper clippings to her class notebooks.
I’ll be thinking about Mom this weekend and all of those who have served their country, whether in the military or through volunteer work as civilians.
Five years ago today my mother died. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed. Following on the heels of saying goodbye to my dear cat last week, it’s a double dose of grief.
When I think about my mother, the visceral pain has dampened with the passage of time, but such a profound loss changes the landscape of one’s heart forever. As those who have followed this blog or have read The Reluctant Caregiver know, my mother and I had our relationship challenges, because we were opposites personality-wise. But a mother is an irreplaceable figure in one’s life.
There are so many people experiencing loss right now. Having experienced a variety of losses over the last decade, I can say that grief does transform over time. Grief is an individual process, and while the established stages of grief may offer some insight, be prepared to slide in and out of stages over time. One thing I have found helpful is to give meaning to the loss, to honor the significance that person or animal had in your life. This could mean designing an urn, writing a poem, planting a tree, etc. One meaningful way I’ve honored both of my parents is to engage in caregiver advocacy work, to support those who cared for my parents during their times of need.
For those who are grieving right now, I hope you are able to find a path that will lead you to some form of inner peace.
This week, I had to say goodbye to Nod, my 15-year-old cat. He was such a sweet and affectionate cat, a total lap magnet. He also was one of those old soul creatures who carried an air of wisdom and deep understanding. We had an amazing bond and his absence is being painfully felt everywhere I turn.
Still, he had as good of a death as one can have. When he stopped eating over the weekend, he let me know that it was time to leave. (He’d had a chronic GI issue over the last couple of years and fought to live as long as he could.) I made sure to spend as much quality time with him as possible until the mobile veterinarian came to the home to perform the euthanasia. Nod always ran from the doctor, who has been paying visits a lot lately to treat my dog’s ear infection. But this time, he stayed in his pet bed and locked eyes with the veterinarian as she stepped into the living room. He knew she was there for him and he didn’t flinch. He was at peace, and that did offer me some comfort.
My other cat, Rosalie, was not particularly close to Nod. They had more of a sibling rivalry relationship. She initially left the room as the veterinarian set up her equipment, but then she came back in and intently observed the procedure from a safe spot. As soon as the veterinarian checked his vitals and nodded to me that he was gone, Rosalie got up, stretched and left the room. She knew that Nod was no longer with us.
I’m always floored by just how much animals understand. We don’t give them nearly enough credit. And we could learn something from them about how they approach death.
Farewell to my sweet friend Nod, who I know will be waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge.
Many people are wondering how to handle Mother’s Day during a pandemic. If you are fortunate enough to have a good relationship with your mother, but are intent on keeping her healthy, you may decide not to meet in person. But there are many ways you can show her love this weekend from afar. And with so many lives lost this year, reach out to your loved ones and make sure they know how much you care.
A simple phone call would mean a lot to mothers who may feel isolated right now. Bonus points if the two of you can figure out how to video chat! Sending flowers is a simple, thoughtful gift that will brighten someone’s day. Mobile dining apps means you could have brunch delivered safely to her home. If you sent your mother a card, good for you. If you forgot, you could still send an e-card or a gift card electronically, if she has email access.
I’ve been reading about a lot of celebrations taking place in creative fashion, like a drive-by parade or holding messages up to the window. If possible, get the grandchildren involved and make it a family activity to brighten the spirits that may be strained during the stay-at-home period.
This Mother’s Day may look different than it does in a typical year, but you can still express your love and gratitude. And for those of us who no longer have our mothers, take time this weekend to reflect on happier times and cherished family memories.
I hope you and your family have a wonderful Mother’s Day.
Those of us who have cared for loved ones with Alzheimer’s can’t help but think about their chances of developing the disease or another form of dementia. In her latest Dealing with Dementia blog post, Kay Bransford shares the most important things to consider.
I am guessing that many of you share my fear of dementia. For those of us with loved ones who have lived with it, we know how devestating it is for the individual as well as the loved ones that surround them. But it doesn’t have to be. Once diagnosed, you have so much opportunity […]
There’s no better time than February to celebrate family. And caregiving is one of the best ways to demonstrate unconditional love. Caregivers come in many forms, and one may not even recognize they are a caregiver. For those who care for children, pets and other family members, along with professional caregivers who treat their clients like family, this book giveaway is for you.
Whenever I learn of someone’s passing during the holiday season, I feel an extra pang of sympathy. Losing a loved one at any time of the year is devastating, of course. But there is something about loss during a period of such joy for others that is particularly painful.
Today it has been eight years since my father’s death. So much has happened since then, yet it’s still hard to believe that it has been so long since his passing. I remember how odd the Christmas decorations and Christmas music blaring everywhere seemed to be after I learned the news of my father’s passing. It’s a tough lesson to learn in such a fragile state: the world goes on without your loved one.
If you find yourself grieving this holiday season, cut yourself some slack. Don’t feel obligated to put on a happy front. There are many others just like you who feel conflicted emotions during this time of year. Hopefully over time, some happier memories will filter in through the grief. If you know someone who has lost someone during the holidays, reach out to them and offer your support.
I hope you and your loved ones have a holiday filled with peace and love.