My mother was the second youngest person in the state of Mississippi to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 44.
A brilliant woman with multiple degrees, she served as a missionary, worked for the state college board, and was a university professor. But to my family, she was just Mom.
None of us were prepared for a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s. Especially her. Within mere seconds all of our lives changed. I was only 14, my brother 8.
With the grace and elegance of a true southern belle, my mother continued her life with true class. She never left home without her “curls and pearls. “ And lipstick. Ladies are never complete without their lipstick!
A few evenings ago I took my Chihuahua for a walk, watched the sun set over the lake, and then settled in back at home on the couch. I turned on my DVR to catch the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars with some popcorn. While I was munching I was overcome with memories. One of my favorite pastimes with Mom in her last years at home was our Monday night ritual of DWTS and popcorn. Even after I moved out, I cherished my Monday nights at my parents.
My mother and I switched roles long before what we hoped for. But she never ceased to dazzle me. She is one of the sweetest women you could ever meet, gracious and loving, but also focused and courageous. Mom did not let her diagnosis define her.
Mom was deeply committed to our family, aiming to fit in and serve where she could. And she did this while being preoccupied with something far beyond our limited understanding. The most important thing I have learned from her is being crazy about Jesus.
Today Mom is living in a nursing home. She is no longer able to walk, feed, or otherwise care for herself, but she still knows everyone and is mostly able to participate in conversations. Mom has walked this road longer than most with this diagnosis. It has been a long, bumpy, and repetitive road but she makes this journey worth taking. Sometimes I find myself in an unknown place, scattered amongst emotions and logic. Even when the landscape seems unchanging, we plod along together, carrying each other’s burdens, and I gladly shoulder the grief that is often too much to bear. Mom is tender and strong, and she is not afraid to look pain, grief, and loss dead in the eye. Even more, she is daring enough to hope against hope.