It is one thing to teach about the grieving process of dementia. It is another to live it.
Earlier today, I called my brother in France to discuss my upcoming trip to visit my mom there. He updated me on her status. “I have noticed she has really deteriorated mentally. She thought I was her husband last week.” Another milestone . . . I could feel my heart sink. This need to relax the self I talk about to folks in my trainings is no easy thing. In order for me to relax into being whoever I represent for my mother, there needs to be a letting go of fifty five years of habits of being called her daughter, and of knowing she knows I came out of her flesh. ‘Mother’, ‘daughter’, such emotionally-charged words. If next week, when I see her, my ‘mother’ starts calling me her ‘sister’ or some other relative, not ‘daughter’, my mind will be quick to make quite a few leaps. I already think the thoughts, just anticipating what might happen. ‘It’s over.’ ‘No more, ‘Bonjour, Margot. Ca va?’ ‘No more mother, really. Instead, a fuzzy kind of connection with this person who looks like my mother, but will no longer call me by my childhood nickname. And no death certificate to prove that our relationship as we knew it is over . . .’ I need to cry, a lot, before I can move on.
I need to let go of my need to have this person who is my mother, recognize me as her daughter. I need to let go of my attachment to that idea. And I need to make room for a new kind of bond, no longer organized by a historical context. No, rather a bond cultivated in the immediacy of the moment, heart to heart, spirit to spirit. Pure love, without the usual baggage from expectations of established roles. I am soon to enter the territory of millions before me who have walked this unchartered path. A descent into a different way of being, stripped naked, meeting ‘her’ at last. I am reminded of Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle’s talk about her forays into vertical time with her husband Hob. And I am immensely grateful for the gift of my practice. After all, this is what I have been training for. To not identify with thoughts, or fixed ideas of the self, mine or others. My mother shall soon teach me the necessity of living in this moment, completely, and without any hesitation.