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Lions Roar : March 2008
75 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2008 She looked astonished. “Yes! How on earth did you know?” “Just a guess...” “I can never remember the name,” she explained. “Of course not.” “It affects my memory...” “...and that’s why you can’t remember.” She frowned and shook her head. “Remember what?” “There’s not a single thing I can do about it,” she told me, when I reminded her. “If there was something I could do and I wasn’t doing it, then I could feel sad or depressed. But as it is...” She shrugged. “So you’re OK with it?” She looked at me, patiently. “I don’t have much choice,” she explained, “so I may as well be happy.” December 8, 2005 Dear Norman [Fischer], The other day you asked me to write something for the Hospice Project grief workshop that you will be leading. So here goes. My mom died one month ago today. She had three terminal conditions: Alzheimer’s, cancer of the jaw, and ninety years of living. Her death should have come as no surprise, but of course when she died in my arms, I was astonished. How can this life, which has persisted here on this earth for over ninety years, be over? Just like that? This strange new state of mom-less-ness is inconceivable to me. It is new and foreign, a condition I’ve never experienced in my own forty-eight years of living. I’ve been taking care of my mom for the last ten years, so my grieving is minute and quotidian. When I go to the grocery store, I find myself searching for things that are soft and sweet (she loved chocolate and she had no teeth), or beautiful bright things (she loved flowers, but her sight was failing). Then I remember that she isn’t here anymore and I’ll never again see her face light up when I come into her room, or hear her exclaim over the color of a leaf or a petal or the sky. For the first couple of weeks, I just stood in the ice cream aisle, stunned and weeping. When I think about her death from her perspective, mostly I just feel relief. She was beginning to suffer a lot of pain and con- fusion, and I believe she was ready to go. But when I think about it from my point of view, it breaks my heart. Maybe that’s selfish. I don’t know. All I know is that I miss her like crazy. I miss her thin little fingers. I miss holding her hand. I miss twirling her wedding ring around so the tiny chip of a diamond sits back on top. I’ve tried so hard to be strong for her. When she was diag- nosed with Alzheimer’s, our roles began to switch. I took over caring for her, and slowly she became dependent on me. In the end, I was feeding her and changing her, and she was calling me mom. Alzheimer’s is an achingly long way to say goodbye, but I had to be strong, I thought. It would only confuse and upset her to see me cry. Then a few months ago, I had to take a trip and leave her for a couple of weeks. I went to tell her, knowing that she might die while I was gone, and as I sat on the bed next to her, the tears just came and there was no stopping them. I tried not to let her see, but of course she noticed. She’s my mom, after all—it’s her job to notice these things. She put her arm around me, put her head on my shoulder, and although she’d pretty much stopped using lan- guage by then, she made these sweet, singing, mom-like noises There’s a powerful link between creativity and death. We make things because we lose things: memories, people we love, and, ultimately, our very selves. MAR 68-77.indd 75 MAR 68-77.indd 75 12/19/07 2:16:12 PM 12/19/07 2:16:12 PM