There are days when Alzheimer’s and Angiosarcoma have the upper hand. Those are really hard days. We think to ourselves, “She didn’t know who we were today. We want to be here, but she didn’t know…”
The thing is, even if she is confused about what’s happening, we come anyway. Nana is still Nana even if she’s confused; even when she is too weak to get out of bed.
We brought our dog with us because Nana loves dogs more than anything in the world; maybe more than her own family, lol. We thought this could cheer her up. And if that didn’t work, maybe the mint chocolate chip milkshake from Cook Out would do the trick. And if that still didn’t help, perhaps the Agatha Christie books (her favorite) we found on eBay.
Was it one of our best visits? No. Not even close. She is suffering in so many ways. It hurts us deeply to see her go through this and not be able to fix anything – just treat symptoms.
But I’m learning, even on the hard days, to enjoy the moment. Nana taught me decades ago that we can handle anything. She often used to say, “I can do anything for ____ amount of time.” If that meant a 3-hour car ride, she’d say, “I can do anything for 3 hours.”
I find myself saying that now in this season with her. Despite the health obstacles she is facing, I catch myself saying her words, “I can do this for this season.” It’s not easy. Making difficult decisions about her future with the family, arranging for help, and the hundreds of details of life that encompass her final lap in life, I lean on the person I know is still in there – Nana the fearless, the strong and strong-willed.
When I’ve cried my eyes out, or have been frustrated with things beyond my control, or disheartened by the terminal illnesses that plague her body, I still hear her in my mind, clear as a bell, saying with confidence, “I can do anything for now!”
If Nana can endure this, then so can we. And part of making this season easier is to lean in to the hard and enjoy the moment. Watching her enjoy a sip of the milkshake; the look of surprise on her face with the books; or the many kisses she gave our dog, these moments – which are so small you’d miss them if you blinked – are priceless beyond measure.
This photo of her smiling was the only smile she could muster this day through the pain and symptoms of the diseases. I’m so thankful to have captured it because her smile shows her strength, tenacity and determination for life and living.
It makes me wonder what fleeting moments I’m missing in everyday life because I’m distracted – or simply not looking for them. Her smile makes me want to not blink, not miss, not turn my head for a second from life’s hidden treasures.
Her smile was the best part of our visit. We left with hearts broken but hang on to the truth that God’s got her, and she trusts him with her life…so I can trust him, too. We can smile through the hard and enjoy the moment of being together. Simply being together.
I am going to be more intentional looking for the moments in life that make it worth living. A shared smile, a gentle hug, a kiss on the cheek – connections that cannot be stolen by illness and time.
Times when hearts connect, and we are made stronger by leaning on each other’s strength.
Watching Nana love on our dog, I see her true spirit, the person she still is even when her personality is overshadowed by circumstance. She’s still Nana. I’m going to enjoy every moment I can with her until the Lord calls her home. My prayer is for more moments with her, strung together over time like pearls on a necklace, and that I never forget the pricelessness of them – mundane or monumental – they’re all important…because she is.