Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Imagining Life

It's been a while since I've last written. Life is moving forward. The seasons are changing, the kids are growing. It's strange to be in a time and place where my mom does not exist. Sometimes I watch the news or hop onto social media and I think about how lucky she was to never have to see some of the ugliness and craziness going on in the world. If everything I've been taught is true, then she's in a glorious place where sorrow and ugly doesn't exist. Other times I am left feeling sorry that she never got to grow old; she never got to watch her grandkids grow, and see all that they are accomplishing. She missed out on the golden years with my dad. There's an emptiness in our lives without her.

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if Mom were still here. Who would I be? What would I be doing? I sometimes find myself imagining what I'd be doing right now if Mom were still with us. I imagine the two of us making our shopping list for our upcoming RV trip to Lake Pleasant. I imagine sitting together in church, my youngest sitting on her lap while she looks at books with him and tries to keep him quiet and reverent. I imagine her marveling at Ryder's most recent tooth that he lost and remarking what a big boy he is becoming.

I imagine that I'd be saving a seat for her at the boy's talent show. I would look over at her and she would have that huge grin that she used to get when she was beaming with pride. She would be so proud of their courage for getting up on stage, and of Cody's amazing talent with his guitar.

I imagine her cheering above every other voice in the room, "that's my girl!" when Aubrey takes the stage to sing, just like she did when it was one of her daughter's on stage.

I imagine my kids having sleepovers at grandma's house while Jeff and I go out on a date night. She and dad would probably be spoiling them with trips to the movies or the fair, like they used to do B.D.

I imagine myself, picking up the phone to call her and vent to her about the teenage attitude I'm dealing with, or to ask for recipe tips or advice on any given topic.

If Mom were still here, I wonder how I would fill my days now that all the kids are in school. I imagine that I would be the mom that is at the school all the time, volunteering in the classroom, joining the PTA, running all the activities. Maybe I would put more time and effort in to my home sewing business. I wouldn't have so many distractions- a foundation to run, blogs to write, tears to wipe.

My course in life has certainly been changed by dementia and by the tragic loss of my mom. It has changed the person that I am. The ambitions and goals of my younger self are not the same as they are today and life can never be how it would have been if Mom were here. Now that she is gone, I can't go back to who I once was.

And yet, I'm not sure if I'd want to go back to that person. On one hand, I have much more sadness in my life now. The rose colored glasses have come off and I see things in a different light now; not just my own sorrows and struggles, but that of others as well. My heart hurts for what I've been through and it hurts for what I see others going through. There are some days where I feel completely unhinged and unstable and I struggle with the dark cloud of sadness that often hovers overhead. But, on the other hand, I've heard it said that you can't truly feel joy without having felt pain, and I feel like I appreciate the little things in life so much more.

Going through this has definitely made me a more empathetic person. I feel that I am better able to relate to others experiencing loss because I have felt what it's like to have my own heart ripped in two. I am more aware of other's needs and things I might be able to do to lighten their burden. B.D.(Before Dementia), I would have never imagined myself doing some of the things I've had to do; giving up my time to provide care for someone other than my kids, changing diapers, aiding and comforting someone in their last moments in life, preparing them with all the love and tenderness that one can muster for their final departure of this life. All of those things required sacrifice and they were not always easy or convenient, but I am better off for having learned those little lessons of love. Love means sacrifice and I'm not so sure I completely understood that B.D.

My relationships with family members and friends would not be the same either. My dad and I have always had a good relationship, but I feel as though we have grown a lot closer over the past several years. We have leaned on one another to get through this. We've had some deep and meaningful conversations and I have found myself turning to him for advice many times. My love and respect for him has only grown deeper by his example of unconditional love and care for my mom and for his entire family.

I have always considered myself to have had good relationships with my family, but when my mom got sick, there were a couple of aunts who became like second mothers to me. After my mom was diagnosed, one of my aunts (who lives long distance) started calling me every now and then, just to chit-chat. We'd never really had that kind of relationship before, but the more and more she called, the more I came to see that I had someone else there for me, ready to listen. Now, we talk on the phone at least a couple of times a week, if not more. She's become a mother figure to me and our relationship has become very special and dear to me. I have another aunt who I've grown closer with as well. She was the aunt I used to spend the night with growing up, so we've always been close. But since my mom has been sick, we make more of an effort to have regular family dinners and get together here and there "just because" or to celebrate birthdays. She and my uncle make an effort to be at the kid's concerts and events and I know that both of these aunts are always be there for me in a heartbeat when I need anything. In fact, they are the ones who I leaned on the most the week my mom died. I don't know that these relationships would be quite the same if dementia hadn't have crossed our path.

Because of dementia, I have had to learn patience and forgiveness, both for myself and with others (this is a never ending lesson!). I have learned to rely on and trust in other people. My mom was always my "go to" person, but by opening myself to talking and confiding with other people, my relationships with them have grown stronger and I have discovered a whole "community" of people that I feel a part of. So many people have shown love and support over the years; family and friends alike rallied together to help our family during years of hardship. I had friends who had never even met my mom B.D., but were still at her funeral and serving us through our darkest times. Their examples of friendship have truly inspired me and makes me want to be a better friend and person.

I hate that it took losing my mom to grow into the person I have become, yet there is also a sense of beauty in bettering one self in spite of trials. I can't really say if I am truly better or not, since I don't know the person I would be if this had never happened, but I'd like to think that there are ways that I've learned and grown through this. Lately I have been struggling with myself; feelings of sadness and inadequacy have been creeping in; feeling a bit lost and confused about which path to take in this stage of my earthly journey (another post for another day). Sometimes I wish I could turn back time and go back to a simpler time of life. But I am trying to focus on the beauty rather than the pain and trying to live a life that my mom would be proud of.