UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Spirit Story

Moments with Mom

By Monica Plant


I had a conversation with a barista at a local café, which eventually came around to the topic of Alzheimer’s disease. I told him that I was living with, and caring for, my mom who has the disease. His reply was not untypical: “It must be really hard and painful.” I surprised myself with my reply.

Yes, losing parts of Mom has been painful. But I also wonder if those parts — playing competitive tennis, loving jazz — were just window dressing anyway. Were they really Mom? Who’s to say that what she’s getting pared down to as she makes her way through this disease isn’t really her at her most essential? The barista was taken aback.

The next day at my Alzheimer’s support group, and later in conversation with a friend, my thinking deepened: without Mom’s “window dressing” and without the history of how I have responded to it, I am more free to enter the moment with her. To Mom, the moment is all there is. There’s little or no past (not even five minutes ago), and certainly no future worth worrying about. Mom may not remember that a neighbour came by to offer some flowers this morning or that tonight her son is coming to wheel her around a local park. But when she’s in those moments, they are their own delicacies. She delights in them, and her perpetual invitation is: come and share this moment with me.

After my dad died a year and a half ago, my ability to share in those moments expanded considerably. Perhaps it is a blessing of Alzheimer’s that Mom’s grief didn’t seem heavy or enduring. She just seemed to start anew.

She soon began holding court on the front porch. Dog walkers started bringing their friendly, slobbering charges up for a visit; neighbours or friends from church would drop by. When the weather is disagreeable, she sits inside in her big easy chair at the window and becomes a one-person Neighbourhood Watch.

Tending to Mom is an opportunity to share these simple and rich moments, and to recognize the massive gift they offer. Getting under a blanket together and watching a storm, savouring the brilliance of a quiet summer afternoon on the veranda — caregiving has become my spiritual practice, and Mom my spiritual guru.

The moments aren’t always happy. One day, Mom was sobbing as she returned from her day program. I plied her with comfort (hugs, blankets, heat packs, tea) and listened to her. “Everything’s broken,” was how she responded to my question about what was wrong. “Why hadn’t anyone told me about Dad? When did he die?” Evidently, Mom had been following one of the men around, thinking it was Dad, and had been confused by his rebuffs.

Do I think that everyone who tends to someone with Alzheimer’s experiences the disease as I do? Absolutely not. If Mom was hitting me or was angry or confrontational, I might not be writing this, or writing about it this way.

Back to the barista — mention Alzheimer’s, and most of the time it’s with a heaviness, a sadness. No question, there is that experience. But, at least for me, that’s not all there is. Alzheimer’s has given Mom and me a treasury of moments. I’m grateful to continue to say yes to them.

Monica Plant is a writer and sculptor in Hamilton.



Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Faith

The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

by Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

Promotional Image

Observations

Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Two nurses tackle Vancouver's opioid crisis

Richard Moore is a resident of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In this poignant interview, he explains the important work of nurses Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles.

Promotional Image

Columns

June 2018

The moment the Pope asked me to pray for him

by Miriam Spies

A United Church minister on the impact of a simple gesture from a powerful man.

Society

July 2018

Best self-care tips for caregivers

by Kate Spencer

Counsellors, teachers and ministers share what it looks like for them.

Faith

July 2018

Meet your 2018 moderator nominees

by Mike Milne

Later this month, General Council commissioners will choose the United Church’s next moderator. As of press time, 10 leadership hopefuls had been announced. We asked each of them to sum up their pitch in a tweet.

Faith

July 2018

A fond farewell to presbyteries

by Steven Chambers

They will likely be eliminated this year as the United Church restructures. Steven Chambers celebrates the end of an era.

Society

July 2018

Instead of retirement, these two nurses are battling Vancouver's opioid crisis

by Roberta Staley

At age 71 and 65 respectively, Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles embrace their unconventional work in the Downtown Eastside.

Columns

June 2018

I hate you, Canada, for teaching people to treat me like this under your name

by Zach Running Coyote

A Cree actor says he blames our country for the racist comments recently directed at him in a McDonald's restaurant.

Promotional Image