Our mother came from Portugal after marrying our father in 1958. She didn’t know anyone and didn’t speak the language. She followed the love of her life and they raised a beautiful family. They taught me the meaning of true love, loyalty and dedication to family and friends.
Our father passed away in 2000, after 42 wonderful years of marriage. Although she had us kids and grandchildren as a distraction, she had a void that none of us could fill. She visited the cemetery every day and cried at the mention of his name.
In 2008, mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the days, months and years that followed were heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Very early on she stopped talking about our dad and didn’t recognize his picture. That was a blessing but painful to think she could forget him. Out of everyone, how could she forget him? They say God works in mysterious ways. Did mom get Alzheimer’s so she didn’t suffer without our dad?
Although she didn’t always know my name, she always knew who I was. She would often ask those around her “Where is my daughter?” This will always be a comfort to me. Like so many children do, I took the time I had with my parents for granted. When we are young, we think we know everything and when our parents are gone, we realize they knew everything and we knew nothing.
We had daily help but my brother and I took turns caring for mom in the evenings and slept in the same bed with her for over seven years. She was home until she passed away on April 2, 2015. It was a sacrifice to leave our home and my husband in the evenings, but I don’t regret that for a minute. We had quality time we otherwise would not have had. We laughed and cried and shared many special moments while she could still remember.
Later we repeated the stories she used to tell us over and over to her. She didn’t lose her smile, she didn’t lose the love for those around her, but she did lose her dignity. Mom was a very private person and I could count on one hand the times I saw her in her bra and underwear before Alzheimer’s, then suddenly I’m changing her diapers. We promised our dad we would take care of her and we kept that promise.
It’s time to take action against Alzheimer’s. We need to urge our public officials to vote in favor of increased funding for research so future generations don’t have to be affected by this terrible disease. I have a truly a wonderful life and I want to remember it all!
About the Author: Clara Stevens is the mother of actress and singer Katie Stevens. Read Katie’s blog, The Hardest Goodbye: A Granddaughter’s Story.