My Mother’s Gift

July 13, 2015

I wanted to tell you a little bit about my mom. Moms are interesting characters, because although there probably isn’t a single person who is more important to you, she probably wouldn’t seem like much to anyone else, except maybe your siblings. Maybe your cousins and your kids. If not for the people who love their mom so much — or do NOT love their mom so much — that woman would probably disappear into obscurity.

I’m sure you’ll take it with a grain of salt when I tell you that my mom is special, because everyone’s mom is special. But it’s true, she’s very special. My mom is 78 now and living in a memory care home. But she was a fiercely independent person who took great pride in being a hard worker. She hated to ask for help or let anyone know she was struggling. She loved to have her family around her, especially her grandchildren, and she loved when everyone left again. When my dad died suddenly in 1985, Mom had to learn to do all kinds of things that Dad had taken care of. She had to transfer ownership of a business, sort out life insurance, and deal with the mess left when someone disappears from your life with no warning. And she did. She handled it all. She told us what she wanted us to know or what she needed help with and she kept the rest to herself

So it was quite a shock for all of us, including my mom, when she got sick. She was diagnosed a number of years ago with a disorder that causes a progressive decline in mental ability, called Dementia with Lewy Bodies. The effects of the disease haven’t been sudden, and the decline hasn’t been steady. But lately it’s been pretty dramatic, and recently my mom asked me if I was her daughter.

There was an expression that my mom used a lot, especially when her grandchildren were little. She would say “I’m making some memories.” So I’ve been feeling very sad and more than a little bitter about the fact that my mom spent a lifetime making memories only to have them stolen away from her. Not to mention worry over my own memories and all the other information I keep in the vault at the top of my neck.

But one of the greatest gifts I received from my mother is the ability to find light in the midst of the darkness. Believe it or not, blinded by the grief of having to see her go through this and losing pieces of her along the way, I flailed my arms around in that darkness and found something to hold on to. Here’s what I figured out: We don’t make our memories in a vacuum. Those experiences you’ve had, the good and the bad, they happened to you and the people with you. Or maybe you were alone but came home and told the story or showed the pictures. Someday, someone else might laugh or cry while they tell your story to another person. And a shared memory can live on, past the time that you are able to enjoy it. It can be your gift to the Universe.

Don’t be afraid that you might one day lose your memories, and don’t be stingy about sharing them with others. I’m sure my mom wouldn’t have done one thing differently if she could see into her future. And I feel pretty sure about the advice she’d give you right now. “Life is flipping short; go make some memories!”

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