Saturday, January 16, 2016

Christmas 2015

It's been a while since my last post. The holidays were quite busy for me this year and it didn't leave me much time for blogging. I did my 3rd annual toffee fundraiser to raise money for mom's caregiving fund. Each year it is more successful. This year I made over 70 pounds of toffee which profited more than $1000 for her fund. I couldn't have done it without help: namely my Aunt Claudia, sisters-in-law Amber and Natalie, daughter Maurina and son-in-law Cameron. I want to thank them all publicly for helping me with this effort! And of course all of the people who buy from us every year!!

I have to admit, the holidays left me feeling more than a little down this year. I feel like I've been able to keep upbeat the past couple years despite our loss, but this year it hit me hard. Mom's disease has progressed so much over the year that it leaves me to wonder what next Christmas will bring. Or will she even be here next Christmas? Last year she had no concept of Christmas, but we were still able to engage her for a few brief minutes to look at some gifts we had bought her. And we were also able to get her over to her sister's house on Christmas Eve to spend some time with her family. This year was even worse than last. There was absolutely NO engagement at all. We knew we wouldn't be able to get her over to her sister's house again (I'm not entirely sure that she even knows who her sister, Claudia, is despite the fact that she comes over every week). We didn't even attempt to take her because she wouldn't have understood and would have been anxious to leave the entire time.

Christmas day was just like every other day for her. Nobody really got mom anything for Christmas this year because we all knew that it meant nothing to her. My dad, however, did put a few gifts under the tree for her: a couple pairs of pants and a new shirt. I just don't think he could've done Christmas any other way. He couldn't get her to open them or even hold them at all; she paid no attention to any of it. I suspect that so long as she is physically here, there will always be at least a few presents under the tree.

I struggled with the gift giving this year too. I knew it wouldn't mean anything to her but at the same time, I couldn't stand the thought of not having something for my mom under the tree. A couple of months ago, I bought a new semi-professional embroidery machine. I have been having so much fun with it (sewing is my outlet and stress relief!) and I've made some really cute projects for myself, my family and friends and also for customers. One project, in particular, kept turning my thoughts to my mom. I created a pillow cover with an embroidered temple and phrase "Families are Forever" on it. The temple is significant in our religion because it is what (we believe) binds families together not just in this life, but in the eternities. My mom loved the temple and she and my dad made their family a forever family in 1982, when I was just 11 months old. I knew that if my mom was here today in her right mind, that she would adore my pillow and want one for her couch. My belief in eternal families is what keeps me going in a positive direction. Though we are losing her in this life, it is not the end. One day, mom will be whole again and we will be together again. That is the only thing that gives me any comfort.

The idea sounded a little silly even to me, but I decided I was going to make my mom a pillow for Christmas. I knew she wouldn't open it or even look at it, let alone understand the significance of what it meant. Nevertheless, I decided this was the perfect gift for my mom. So I made the pillow and I let my dad stand in for mom to open it on Christmas morning. I felt really choked up when he opened it, imagining my mom's reaction had she not been stricken with this awful disease. My dad's eyes may have been a bit misty when he opened it (though I can neither confirm nor deny...he isn't one to show much emotion-he's a tough guy- and I'd never throw him under the bus and tell all his secrets ;) ). I like to think that maybe in the next life, mom will remember all that happened in her life-maybe like she's woken from a dream. Maybe someday she will appreciate the gift I made for her.

There isn't much else to say. I love the holidays, but I'm glad they're over. I don't know what next year brings, but it will be sad for a long time. Somehow, I have to figure out a way to feel happy and not sad. I am very blessed to have a beautiful family, immediate and extended, that bring joy into my life. I can never fill the void of my mom, but I try to focus on the positive things in my life rather than the negative. Some days (and years) are harder than others.

Next week I'll give a full update on mom's phase/stage/health.


  1. What a beautiful pillow and message, faith is so important when it comes to matters like yours. I went through the same questions with my mother in the later stages of Alzheimer's--always asking how many more birthdays or holidays she and we could all endure when she became unresponsive. The sad truth is that it can go on for a miserably long time. And so you must learn to make the most of the time, even if your loved one seems to be unresponsive.I questioned buying my mother gifts too, but found towards the end that sensory gifts did appear to have some effect, although limited. My mother loved food and was most appreciative of ice cream, a shake with a straw, pudding, those kinds of things. Bright colors like helium balloons and nice smelling floral bouquets also brought small response too. She seemed to enjoy holding soft stuffed animals too. Auditory things like playing favorite songs or just reading to my mother so she could hear my voice sometimes ended up being a nice way for us to spend some time together. In the end, I'd wheel her outside to let the sun shine on her face and wind whisper on her skin. And I learned to enjoy these very small blessings with her. Find happiness in whatever is left, even the small things. Good luck on your journey with your mother and family.

  2. My parents were married in the same temple - last week was their 42nd anniversary. So grateful to know that our moms will be whole again someday - what a reunion that will be!