3 wishes in getting off the Alzheimer’s roller coaster

“I’m sorry for your loss.” Not knowing what to say or what to do for someone after loss, it just spills out. Those well intended words are not always music to one’s ears. Sometimes, when losses take years to culminate, relief is more paramount than sorrow. It feels awkward to those of us who have fought alongside loved ones for years. Quite frankly, “I’m sorry for your loss” leaves us at a loss for words. What do you say when you’re not sorry?

Here we are, at end-stage. For 14 years Alzheimer’s has slowly and deliberately taken all we hold dear of mother. Her human doing and being have disappeared before our eyes. Her ability to recognize children, grands and great-grands, and even herself, all gone. Her ability to talk, walk, dress, swallow, etc., etc. – all stolen away. Her brain’s hard-drive seemingly wiped clean. Still, the “seemingly” can be misleading. For we have found continued ways to communicate, heart-to-heart, hand-in-hand. Don’t miss what is not said! Gestures, hugs, just being, all like wings of hope that say “Underneath it all, I am still here for this moment.”

When it is finally over, I will not be sorry. So please, don’t you be sorry either. Mom’s been an incredibly strong fighter. I will shout for joy! Praise God! She can get her hard-earned wings! She will be free of Alzheimer’s … that is indeed music to my ears!

I have 3 wishes to (hopefully) help you avoid the “I’m sorry for your loss” response. My time to get off the Alzheimer’s roller coaster is fast and slow coming. Yep. Sadly, those ups and downs, twists and turns, continue right to the end of this ruthless disease.

Do not fear. Though tears will come, there is joy to be found deep inside. I was never promised to be exempt from such trouble or sorrow. In fact, in the day when I cried, He answered me, and strengthened me. (Psalm 138:3)

While the design of my mother’s life has become unrecognizable, its impression remains stead-fast. Like ink smudged on paper, her story was altered not obliterated by Alzheimer’s. Her zest for life is deeply enmeshed in all she loved and all who love her.  That kind of love will stick around. It will remain, wholly recognizable to the heart (even if the mind forgets).

I have written about miracles inside the journey, timeless gifts of caregivers, the need to pack the fork in goodbyes (and the cake), the perks in weakness, fringe benefits of difficulty, reasons to laugh in adversity, the need to bloom where you’re planted and much more. Still, my voice is far from being all talked out; the advocacy is far from finished.

Friends and family have asked, “What can we do for you?” My answer may seem a little odd: “I don’t want to hear, I’m sorry. Instead, I have 3 wishes …”

  • I wish to hear of the heart-gems I have planted in your life, to know my efforts to change the course of Alzheimer’s were not forsaken.
  • I wish to hear of the hope that remains and the huge outcomes it brings.
  • I wish to hear about and see pictures of how you transform the sadness into meaningful living and loving, through it and beyond.

Nothing you do in love is ever wasted. Take every opportunity, until one’s last breath, to magnify the love in their heart and yours. Let’s dwell on gems instead of grief. As I prepare to get off this Alzheimer’s roller coaster, please help me in letting go.  I’ve made a wish … two, then three. Won’t you help them come true? I’m sorry dates back to 14 years worth of loss. Relief is soon to be paramount.

P.S. Please say some extra prayers for my dad as he lets go of his sweetheart of 64 years. Though our tears will come, there is joy to be found deep inside. We’ll let you know when she’s got her wings.

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