I wrote the following article which was published in the Vancouver Sun on Monday, November 8th, 1993 titled:
Deciding what is best for Mother
Recently, my mother went to the hospital to undergo a series of tests. I found myself spending a great deal of time with her and felt I needed to be with her as much as possible. I am embarrassed to say I now realize this was as much in an effort to comfort myself as it was to comfort her.
My mother suffers from progressive dementia, often referred to as Alzheimer’s disease. My father has been her caregiver and partner in life for more than 53 years. They have few friends left and, by choice, have not spent any time apart from one another since the onset of the dementia about ten years ago.
The time has come for my father and our immediate family to come to terms with what is in the best interests of this woman we love so dearly. It has now reached the point where my father’s health and well-being are at stake.
Questions, hundreds of them, pass through my head. Will she ever forgive us?
I try to imagine my mother living in a place away from my dad, a place full of strange faces that will eventually become more familiar to her than ours.
It is so difficult to see the mother you once looked up to, the woman you admired and feared at the same time, the nurturing individual who consoled you and assured you, who constantly gave of herself to you and others, the person you most wanted and didn’t want to be like, become smaller through the passing of time.
This woman of 5’4″ I somehow always remembered as being a giant who towered over her five children as a figure of authority and wisdom. Today her strong stature has grown weak and frail and I see her in an ever-changing role, regressing to a place where she once felt a sense of comfort, love and happiness. That place is her childhood. It is a place where life is far simpler for her than our enormous world.
In our past together I never thought of my mother and I as being all that close. That is, in comparison to what I envisioned as the ideal mother/daughter relationship. What I am realizing is that nothing could be further from the truth. I am fortunate I have come to know this while my mother is still alive. Our time together today is not unlike the days where in my earliest years, my mother held my hand, or when she would take my face in her hands and kiss me on the nose and when she would tell me all about when she was a little girl.
Before she went into the hospital for tests, I used to think of how I missed her the way she used to be ten years earlier. Now I realize she hasn’t really left me. Together we can visit that place where we felt comfort, love and happiness. The amazing thing is that we don’t even have to exchange words. When she gazes at me with her big brown eyes, or when she touches my hand and smiles that warm familiar smile, she touches my soul and has communicated far beyond mere words. Now when we spend time together we go for short walks and I hold her hand and remind her of the stories she used to tell me of when she was a little girl. When I leave her, I cup her face in my hands and kiss her on the nose.
I first heard the saying “time heals all wounds” from my mother. I know guilt comes from fear, and we fear most what we do not know. Time. I know in my heart, my mother will forgive us all.
Mirtle Marion Brayshaw passed away peacefully on March 30th, 2000