Enter Mourning: A memoir on death, dementia and coming home
By: Heather Menzies
For care-giving family members, there’s often a choice to be made: to enter fully into the experience of what an aging parent/spouse with dementia is going through, or to stay on the fringes, being dutiful.
At some point, taking care of my aging mother stopped being an imposition, or even a series of tasks I managed with some semblance of grace, and became an experience that changed my life. It opened me not just to the unknown but to unknowing as a way of living, simultaneously letting go and letting in. I learned to give myself over to the crumbling and ebbing away of life and in doing this, discovered how it flows from the tangible, the articulate and the comprehensible to the intangible and the inscrutable. In the end, it’s almost entirely an act of faith, or so it seemed to be to me.
Over the past three years, I had struggled to understand, to accept, and to be there for Mum as dementia stripped her of her ability to remember, to navigate her car, to dress herself, and, finally, to speak in whole sentences. I’d learned a new, old language vested in gestures and touch, enunciated through rhythm, tone and cadence. I’d discovered the lovely landscape of sitting side by side with Mum on her single residence bed, just holding hands. When a stroke and a broken hip took her down further, we became so attuned to each other it was as though the umbilical cord that had connected us at the beginning of my life had grown back between us at the end of hers.