After a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, your perspective on things change. You wonder about the things that you could be doing if you didn’t have this disease. I was diagnosed a little over a year ago. If I didn’t have this disease, I would still be working in a job that I loved, Debra and I would continue working on our projects around the house and traveling. This disease impacts every facet of our life, every day, almost all of the time. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not complaining, I am not depressed, and I not whining about my life. All we can do is the best we can with what we have. I have a tremendous support system which brings me to the topic of my post today.
My family is very supportive, understanding, and helpful. One of my biggest fan and supporters has been my mother. Mom kept her calendar next to her computer which she kept up to date with my speaking engagements. The who, where, and why were of much interest to Mom. She knew every detail of my Dr. appointments and the medications I was on. After an event, I had to Skype Mom with the details of how things went. On many occasions she would encourage me to continue speaking and spreading the word about this awful disease.
After Dad passed away in January, Debra and my relationship with Mom became even closer. We would Skype with Mom almost daily. We would talk about our day, what we were eating, a lot of small talk, but of interest to Mom was what I was doing with the Alzheimer’s Association. Our trips to Kansas to visit Mom were more regular. Mom missed Dad enormously and she was struggling to fill her day. She was so accustomed to caring for Dad, now that he was gone, she was in an empty house with a lot of time on her hands. It was hard for her to go from a fulltime care giver to having nothing to do. As I mentioned before in my post about Dad, I don’t know any two people more in love than my parents. I wish every family had the kind of parents that my sisters and I did.
I will never forget the Skype call I got from my sister. It was Monday July 11th. Mom was in the hospital for a routine outpatient procedure when the unimaginable happened. Something went horribly wrong and Mom did not survive the procedure. We lost Dad in January, now 6 months later, we lost Mom. Dealing with the loss of a parent is never easy, in this case, it was compounded by losing both parents in a very short window of time. I’m not sure how I would’ve handled these losses before Alzheimer’s, I just know that the grieving process now is very long. I didn’t have an immediate rush of emotions, it was more of a “Oh no, now what do we do”. Also, the questions started, “what happened?” Now my sisters and I had to deal with funeral arrangements.
Dad had cancer and we knew the eventual outcome, the cancer would win. Mom’s passing was unexpected, at least to us. Mom, however was prepared. She had a binder above her computer monitor with all of the details for her funeral down to the songs she wanted. The amount of detail she went to in preparing this guide for us was amazing. She told me the week before the procedure that she was “ready to go”. I in turn told her that we were not ready for her “to go”. She was trying to make it easier on us by having all of her arrangements preplanned.
I have been silent for the last two months because it has been very hard to deal with mom’s passing. The grieving process has taken almost two months. It seems that everything I did reminded me of Mom. If I went into the back yard to pull weeds, I would remember Mom commenting on how beautiful our yard was. Every time I went into the yard I would choke up. When I sat down at the computer, I thought of the times Skyping with Mom. On more than one occasion I went into the office at 4:00 and sat down and brought up Skype to talk to Mom, and then would remember that Mom was gone. I sat down to write this blog several times and was not able to do it, it was still too emotional.
Mom will never be forgotten, she will always be one of my biggest advocates. There is so much that I want people to know about Mom that just isn’t possible in this blog. When we Skype now with family, our cavalier Max (Mom called him her “granddog”) will come into the office waiting for Mom to whistle at him like she always used to do. He still barks if our Skype goes off late in afternoon, our appointed Skype time, he misses Mom also. We lost our Skype buddy.
As I close this post, my mindset has changed dramatically. Yes, Mom is still one of my biggest advocates, she is still with me in spirit. Now as I walk into the back yard, the memories are fond memories of Mom, not sadness. Maybe I am close to the end of the grieving process. In any regard, I still hold Mom and Dad close. They will always be inspirations to me. I also find comfort in knowing that Mom isn’t lonely any longer, she is with Dad.
I am back to speaking, and obviously writing my blog. I continue to volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association. I am registered for the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” here in Omaha. Our team is “Fight For Five”. Elizabeth (my Alz Association boss) and I are the team members. I have included the shortcut to our Walk Page if you are interested in our progress as a team. I will have another post shortly with more detail about the walk. It is good to be back online.
Miss you Mom.
Omaha Walk To End Alzheimer’s Mike Hughbanks Team Page