It’s been nearly a year since my grandfather died after a long battle with dementia and today as I was cleaning out my closet, I came across a letter I wrote a few years ago while grieving the loss of his memory of me. Then, a few years later came grieving his death. It was so twisted & heartbreaking to have a loved one alive but not know who I was or even who THEY were. It was new territory to grieve the loss of someone living while having to move forward with a new and painful relationship. Then once he died, it was like grieving him all over again but with fresh wounds.
I found myself writing to help process what had happened and the stages that he eventually progressed through, to his death. When someone you love has Dementia, you suffer their loss over and over again, well before they take their last breath. You might even question your own identity when someone influential in your foundation no longer knows you. It hurts so badly that you wonder whether or not you’ll feel anything but relief when they pass as the thought of them living the way they do, without control over their body, is hard to watch. Once the lights go out from their eyes, every moment feels like a fast and furious downward spiral. A glimmer of truth in a conversation will give you hope, only to be knocked back to a harsh reality filled with alter egos, handshakes, untrue stories and sitting across from someone who thinks they’re existing in another time and place. For a while, it’s hard to recognize where they got off the memory merry-go-round and where the disease got on. You strain to remember when you last made meaningful eye contact or conversation and you try with all your might to hang onto the real memories for the both of you.
In my younger years, I remember hearing about Alzheimers and Dementia and thinking I would never be able to bare such pain if a loved one had this disease. It was unimaginable and yet one of the worst things I could imagine. When Grandpa forgot (for good) who I was it was a punch in the gut I never saw coming and a pain I’ll never forget. This nightmare taught me something though and it’s that life is unpredictable and out of our control. I learned something else too; that I can get through all kinds of hard things that I’d never wish for anyone to experience. I GOT THROUGH IT but it still hurts. It’s still heartbreaking but time does ease the pain. So, I hope that no matter your struggles or how high the mountain that lies ahead of you is, that you would know YOU WILL come through that pain with an understanding that you too can get through the hard, unimaginable things and with faith and a hope in Heaven, it’s possible! If you’ve ever loved someone who forgot who you were, I hope this brings you comfort, peace and some sort of needed release.
This is written from the perspective of the one who suffered from dementia, healed in Heaven, in this case, my Grandpa.
I am healed. I walked towards a light and suddenly knew my name. Please know I remember you now. All those times I looked at you and didn’t remember, know that I saw someone familiar in your eyes and voice, even when I couldn’t pinpoint who they belonged to.
Your patience with me made me feel safe, thank you. Your tears made me feel sad and I wanted to cheer you up, just like your old Grandpa would have, but the words couldn’t come out. I was in there somewhere, but I was stuck.
I held you as a baby and watched you grow into a woman and a mother. We cooked together and loved to talk. Then, one day, and many times after, I shook your hand and said, “Nice to meet you,” but it’s all I could manage to say. I saw your pain and how your eyes welled up right there in front of me, but the disease robbed me of you. You see, though my mind failed me when I needed it most, my soul never forgot you.
You played along like so many others did. I know you feel robbed but I feel blessed. You might think, how could he feel blessed when he suffered the way he did. Well, I’ll tell you why. When I was sick, I received a gift every single day, one that I might not have taken notice of in my healthier days. Every day I was shown unconditional love by the “strangers” that loved me. My mind misplaced my loved ones, my stories and my life but every single day I felt and knew I was loved.
Today, please know that I love you too.
I know I slipped away without much warning and we never said goodbye. Maybe it’s better we didn’t have to. How do you say goodbye to the ones you love? I thought I’d have time but there’s no sense in dwelling on that now. Today I’m okay. I’m up here where there’s no suffering, no loss, no sadness.
I once was lost but now am found. Restored. Renewed. Made whole.
Please know that I remember you. I remember us. I remember the life I had.
As you go forward with your own life, my wish for you is that you would wake up every day and feel love like I felt, back when I didn’t know my name. More than the suffering, remember the love. I’ll see you again one day. You’ll know it’s me when you hear me call your name.
I so look forward to that day.❤️