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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Shelter from the Storm

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST IS PUBLISHED IN THE MAIL (LETTERS) IN THE MARCH 18, 2019 EDITION OF THE NEW YORKER

("How Much a Dementia Patient Needs to Know")

My sister and I watched for a decade as the mother we knew faded into a fog and then disappeared from view. Her dementia eventually left us with nothing but her physical shell.

But there were occasional moments when my mother would animate. Most often these involved her belief that she was a young girl residing with her parents and was needed to work at the family store. And I traveled back in time with her, asking her questions of her day, her parents and what was happening of consequence. 

We kept my mom in her apartment until the end, hoping that familiar surroundings would prove soothing. But it was truly only when I wandered with her into her childhood home that a certain peace, fleeting as it might have been, emerged.

Dementia is a horrible illness, stripping one of virtually every connection to the universe one has inhabited. But there still remain shreds of a former life waiting to be uncovered, remembered, revived, providing brief shelter from the storm.

20 comments:

Unknown said...

Such a great review of this horrible Disease...at least you traveled in time with her and maybe you learned more from her about her childhood..the brain is another part of our whole that needs to be so much more investigated and invested in to find cure to such illnesses...

Anonymous said...

This is very fine, very beautiful. Don't know how to say it, but your words effectively share a feeling that is inexpressibly sublime... a feeling that comes when gazing at a great master's sculpture and "getting it". I was there with my own mother. Such a experience tests the meaning of unselfish love.


GB

Anonymous said...

That's amazing!

BK

Anonymous said...

Wonderful!!!! Bravo. and how timely, almost two years since she passed away and not a day goes by when she is not missed.

GK

Anonymous said...

Great work!!!

BL

Anonymous said...

Beautiful letter. Congrats!

RN

Anonymous said...

That's great! Your writing, especially on this topic, is always impressive and heartfelt.

LK

Anonymous said...

This is so well written and really amazing job by you.

LS

Anonymous said...

So proud of you!

AL

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much. Your letter is so touching and very helpful to me right now!

LS

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Yes you were totally right to be with your Mom and be with her in her early life along the unfortunate dementia times. You were so supportive and patient and perfect.
Love you for it.

GV

Anonymous said...

So you're two-timing the New York Times with The New Yorker. Hmm...
Seriously, that is a beautiful post and glad it got wider readership.

SM

Anonymous said...

Your love, respect, care and compassion for your Mom was as precious as hers was for you, your sister and your entire family. In the face of all the challenges and hardship, your travels back in time with her clearly helped kindle sweet moments and memories for you both. 😌

EA

Anonymous said...

You are the new Mark Twain!


HL

Anonymous said...

Had a similar eight year odyssey with my mother. Thanks for heightening awareness of this horrific affliction affecting millions worldwide.


JE

Anonymous said...

Wow very special
I know your mom was a special person as well as a great mom.. nice to have these memories from a difficult time


LB

Anonymous said...

You’re famous !!!!

JS

Anonymous said...

Very sweet letter.


RA

Anonymous said...

OMG!!! Seeing your name in The New Yorker at the end of this beautiful little letter made me feel such pride - great job

BS

Anonymous said...

Any schmeggege can get 70 letters to the Editor in the Times as you got yours today. But a letter to the Editor in The New Yorker is much more impressive. And such a beautiful letter it is. Mazel. Your mother would be proud. PB