The Gift of Alzheimer’s – Heart and Soul Journey takes place at the end of my mother’s life when she was a resident in a care home and was suffering from severe Alzheimer’s. Prior to this she had struggled at home and exhibited all the usual problems associated with the disease. Furthermore, she had suffered from mental instability throughout her adult life and this had led to our relationship being extremely challenging. I felt very sad that she and I had not found resolution and couldn’t see any possibility of finding it at this late stage.
However, as I witnessed her becoming increasingly frail, feelings of deep compassion arose in me. Seeing this she started to respond very lovingly, putting her complete trust in me like never before. A beautiful symbiotic relationship developed that enabled us to heal our damaged relationship.
Thursday 23 October 2003
Mum is in her room sitting up in bed looking reflective.
Mum: These are very precious moments Margaret.
She repeats this many times.
When she says this, I feel time slows down. Beautiful!
Mum: I’m coming and going, can’t remember. Thank you for keeping things moving along.
Her declining memory is becoming more noticeable. By listening, respecting what she is saying and responding to it, I am helping her to stay connected to her world. I am glad she is appreciating this and it encourages me to continue on the same course.
Note: Sometimes our dialogue doesn’t flow in the way a normal conversation would because of my editing. However I have sacrificed nothing of the heart of the content – the journal entries are exactly as I recorded them, warts and all.
Mum: We are learning we’re immortal
Me: Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me.
Mum: You can tell others.
Me: Thank you. I certainly will.
This is clear confirmation of her wish that I share this information with you.
Mum: I see tears.
I don’t have any now but later my tears come.
Mum: Don’t cry. [She looks perplexed.]
We are learning we’re immortal, Margaret. I will be around. I’ll flutter around you.
Yes, this is what she is starting to show me on our soul journey. I need time and space to fully absorb this. What a wonderful message.
This is Mum’s second reference to fluttering around me, and confirms my first interpretation that she is thinking of herself as an energy form.
I have noticed recently that Mum has developed a repetitive habit – she closes her eyes and moves her head from side to side, at the same time rubbing her nose and brow up and down. As she is doing this, her expression is changing, little changes to the muscles in her face, but she is not saying anything. I have come to realise when she is doing this she is processing thoughts. Her memory is failing noticeably and I am trying to catch her thoughts before they disappear. So I wait until she stops this movement routine, then immediately ask her what she is thinking, hoping it is still in her mind.
Mum: You are mature. It is good of you to be with me just now. I’m remembering all my life: hobbled feet, little blobs, you and Shona [my deceased sister].
Touching her heart area she says.
William [my Dad] and I will have coaching. How is William?
Is this a life review, something that is said to happen commonly after death? Does this mean she is going to die very soon?
‘Hobbled feet’ refers to the feet, usually of horses, being tied or hobbled together, to restrict their movement. I interpret ‘hobbled feet’ as Mum’s metaphor for her life that has been so restricted. What an accurate and sad statement – it makes me want to weep.
‘Little blobs’ sounds to me like memories of my sister and me when we were embryos in her womb. How beautiful! How perfect!
It is true that she and Dad would benefit from coaching, but coaching is a fairly contemporary term, so I am surprised she has used it. Where did that come from?
Mum: I’m trying to map out my brain.
She repeats this a few times.
Where I’m going I will have your long hair. It’s soft.
I am taken aback by this pronouncement. Again, I could dismiss this as her mind wandering, but, ‘I’m trying to map out my brain’, is a conscious, complex mental activity. She knows she is going somewhere although she doesn’t know where. She also has a vision of how her hair will be when she is there. When she was a young girl she had long hair. Is she talking about another existence in the Other World? I can see from her repetitive head movements that she is processing a lot of information.
Following on from this she uses the word ‘temporal’ and I ask her to explain what she means. In temporal dementia, the person often has difficulty in finding the word to express a thought, although they can understand others. This does not seem to be what is happening in Mum’s case.
Mum: Temporal, meaning of this life.
Slowly raising and observing her thin bony hand in front of her, she says:
Mum: My little wrist, silly.
My heart fills. She is looking intently at her old, very thin wrist and bony hand with its slightly contracted fingers, and contemplating what she is seeing.
Me: No Mum, not silly, definitely not silly.
Mum: My fingers, they are so thin. They won’t be thin for long. Death is nothing to be afraid of. I’m in no pain. I’m content.
Me: That is wonderful, absolutely wonderful Mum.
Despite the progression of the disease our journey continued for another three years during which time amazingly my mother retained her ability to speak. In our sacred space wonderful things happened, things I had never imagined, or thought possible, especially with my mother who had Alzheimer’s. This experience has opened my eyes, my heart and my soul and changed my life, for ever.
Extract from The Gift of Alzheimers,
© 2013 by Maggie La Tourelle, published by Maggie La Tourelle