Published in the Rains County Leader on May 4, 2021:
Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, and as I thought about what to write, I wanted to write a tribute to my mother. I’ve already written a lot about her – she’s the main topic of both my Alzheimer’s caregiving memoirs. But as I looked through years of blog posts and articles, I couldn’t find a tribute paying homage specifically to her as the woman who gave me life and played a huge part in molding me into who I am today. I found one I wrote about Daddy and several I’ve written about friends, but no single tribute article for her.
With that in mind, I gave a lot of thought about how to begin her article, but I ran into one mental or emotional road block after another. Maybe I’ve said everything I have to say about her, or maybe the things that haven’t been said are too personal to share – or maybe it’s just complicated. Whatever the reason, I finally gave up the idea and decided to share a chapter from my second memoir. The chapter is titled Southridge Village’s Tribute to Mom.
After Mom died, we received a lot of sweet, heartfelt expressions of sympathy. There were emails, notes on Facebook, cards, phone calls, and personal words of support. All of them meant so much and helped us deal with the grief, but none of them meant any more to me than the one we received from Southridge Village.
Mom spent the last seventeen months of her life at Southridge. Her nails were not always clipped the way I would have done it, but she was always clean and well dressed. There were sometimes dust bunnies under her sofa, but she always had a smile on her face and seemed to feel secure and happy there. It broke my heart when I could no longer care for her in my home, but the staff at Southridge made it a little easier to let go, and they cared for her in ways I couldn’t. Besides, I knew they cared about Mom not just as a resident but also as a person. They always greeted her with real smiles and generous hugs. They sometimes lingered with her even after her needs had been met, and when I visited, it was sometimes hard to tell who was family and who was staff.
A week after the funeral, we got a card from Southridge. The printed verse was very nice in a Hallmark kind of way. What meant the most, though, was the scattering of handwritten notes in the card. There were the usual expressions of sorrow for our loss and assurances of thoughts and prayers, but there was more. There were little messages that spoke of how Mom had touched them, how in spite of the Alzheimer’s, they had connected with her. Here are some of my favorites:
- I’m going to miss walking down the hall and seeing your mother’s smiling face!
- Your mother was so precious!
- I’ll never forget dancing with her on [wing] 300 and listening to her hum to the songs at church. Her place is next to Jesus and we will remember her smile every day.
- I will miss your mother’s smiling face. She was an amazing lady with great spirits.
- Your mom was a great woman.
- Mrs. Robinson was an angel always smiling and so cheerful. She will be greatly missed.
- We will miss her sweet smiles every day.
- I loved Helen’s smile.
- Mrs. Robinson was truly a blessing to know and love. I am glad to have been a part of her life.
- She was a true joy and blessing to have.
Some researchers believe that people with Alzheimer’s develop something they call emotional contagion which causes them to be greatly affected by the emotional state of their caregivers. Our family was blessed that our choice of a residential care facility included a staff that was not only well-qualified and efficient but also positive, loving, and caring.
That’s where the chapter ended, but I wanted to add a suggestion for those whose mother’s are still here. If you haven’t decided how to honor her this year, why not take a few minutes to jot down a few lines about how special she is to you and why. Then take her to lunch at her favorite restaurant and read it to her. On the other hand, if it’s complicated, flowers are always nice.