My mom is still living, but she’s no longer here.
Sometimes I feel like she has already died, and sometimes, honestly, I wish she was already in Heaven … for her sake.
My amazing, beautiful mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.
Even those who do not know or have not known a loved one whose memories died before their bodies know it is an absolutely heart-breaking experience to go through. There are millions of us watching our loved ones fade away, and this seemingly cruel and unfair way for life to end tests our faith in a loving God.
The devastation of the disease is such that I try not to think of it or talk about it or write about it. I rarely go to God with it because it’s just too unbearable, and I don’t even know what to say to God about it except to plead with him to keep her from suffering wherever she is inside that body.
I just don’t want her to be sad or unhappy or worse yet, scared.
But I know she must suffer whenever a momentary realization of her condition breaks through to her consciousness.
Irene Wright-Abraham, after whom I’m named, is unlike any other woman that I know of her generation. An incredibly artistic woman, she had a love of theater, painting and writing. She wrote books, she wrote plays that were later produced, she had a local radio show and even had a television show in Cincinnati many years ago as the hostess of late night movies.
She never went to college and yet, she went on to an have an incredibly successful career as a reporter and bureau chief for the Cincinnati Enquirer. She didn’t begin her career until her late 30s after our family fell on tough times and needed to get out there to earn a living for her family.
It never phased her. She jumped into that career without hesitation and without fear.
Ever optimistic, she made life fun for everyone around her. She was beloved in our community in Ohio and everyone knew her, which was hard for me growing up. I was constantly compared with her, often not seeming to measure up.
It was hard, too, having one of the few mothers in my circle of friends who worked outside of the home. While my friends’ moms were at home, going to recitals, school events and track meets, mine had to cover city commission, fires, crimes, elections and feature stories … any news that happened in Middletown, Ohio, my mom covered. She often was running off to some story right in the middle of some event. At times, I really resented her for that.
But I know it hurt her more. She hated missing our events and letting us down, but she did it for us. It took years for me to see that.
She won many awards, was named to the “Who’s Who of American Women,” was a national writer for the American Heart Association and served as president of the Ohio Newspaper Women’s Association.
My mother was fearless and would try anything — even if it scared her. She had a terrible fear of heights, and yet, if it got her a good story, she would go for it, flying in a fighter jet or climbing the new roller coasters when Kings Island Amusement Park first opened. It was an oddity to us that she would not get on that roller coaster with us, but she climbed the thing for the story.
She loved to travel and try exotic foods, much to the chagrin of my dad and brother Scott, who were meat and potatoes kind of guys. Whenever she pulled out her wok, the groans could be heard — loudly — from the other room. Luckily for her, I loved trying her exotic meals. She loved to have egg rolls with very spicy Asian mustard that would have her laughing and crying at the same time.
She loved musicals and that legacy has trickled down to me, my girls, and even to my own grandson, Riley, who tries to get his little 2-year-old body to tap dance to “Moses Supposes” from “Singing in the Rain.”
We were a fishing family and even though my mom preferred to ask my dad to bait the hook, she would hook her own if need be. She just refused to say no to trying new things and being tough and brave.
I write these things as if I were writing her obituary and, in many ways, I am.
A little more than a year ago, I took a job at The Advocate-Messenger as a reporter and find myself (finally) following in her footsteps. For some unknown reason, I fought becoming a journalist like her when I was younger. I completed my degree in journalism, but only pursued it later in life, after 13 years of teaching.
Today, I find myself doing the things I remember as a child watching her do. I cover city commission, fires, crimes, elections and I write feature stories. The childhood memories of my mom and her career are flooding back with every article I write.
And I want to tell her all about it. Oh, I long to tell her.
She’s still alive, but I can’t tell her.
I know she would be proud, but she can’t tell me.
We would have so many things to talk about and share and compare, and yet, this horrible disease has us in a place where all we can do is look into each other’s eyes. She’s looks into mine, wondering who I am; and I look into hers, wondering where she is.
I try to understand how this happens to people. I understand it scientifically and even spiritually. I know how the fall brought decay and death into this world. I know what Jesus says about this world and the trouble we will encounter. I know He overcame death, both physical and mental. I know life is so very brief and she and I will both be home with our Heavenly Father in the blink of an eye. And I know we will know the joy of sharing all the events she has missed out on in the past few years, and even those she will miss out after she physically leaves this world.
I’ll be able to tell her everything.
This knowledge I have of God and life here on Earth, and what is promised, gives me peace, comfort and incredible gratitude. But it still hurts. For now, it is hard and sad, and I miss my mom, even though she is still right here.
My prayer is that somehow, in the great mysteries of this universe and God’s infinite goodness, that He is meeting her in the recesses of her soul where she must now be. That place that is not of this world and not yet of Heaven. I pray she is with Him laughing and dancing and singing. I pray they are there together and she is happy, though her body and what’s left of her once-brilliant and creative mind remains.
My mom is heading home to God ever so slowly. She is making her terribly difficult journey there, and sadly, I hope she arrives soon. I only want to think of her as the smiling, laughing, beautiful woman who always encouraged me, brought out the artistry in me and always, always pushed me to never be afraid to try new things, like attempting a new career.
I pray the same prayer for all of the men and women who suffer from Alzheimer’s. For those who have lived and loved, raised families and enjoyed successful careers, who are now, bit by bit, memory by memory, fading away on their long, slow journey home.