Saying Goodbye To My Mom Cindy: A Tale of Smiles, Songs, Stress and Sorrow

This is my mother Cindy...


On Sunday February 16th, 2020, at the young age of 68 years old and after living her life the last 10 years having been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's, God called her to Heaven to be with our father, who passed away on February 11, 2015 (you can see her obituary here). When she passed, I was overwhelmed and my anxiety was an issue so I was unable to speak at her services for fear of stuttering as I tend to do when my anxiety takes over. This combined with the fact that honestly at that point I was also unable to voice how I feel and it took me a while to process even though she was in hospice for a week and two days so I kind of had a warning it was inevitable. I have also learned a lot during this including that no matter what happens, you are never prepared to lose someone you love.

She loved her family and friends. She loved her Byrne Dairy yogurt and corndogs and just about anything sweet. She loved Mary Poppins, Hello Dolly, Big Bang Theory and Reba. She loved Barry Manilow, Barbara Streisand, Elvis and country music. She loved to sing and hum and she loved her sleep.



As her primary caregiver for the last five years, I have shared her stories and pictures and found many loved them or at the least seemed to care about her and her journey through this horrible disease. My mission as her caregiver was to bring as much joy and comfort to her life as possible. I did my best to surround her with love, peaceful environments and cater to what she wanted and needed.

If she was tired, I let her sleep. If she wanted to eat, I did my best to provide her with food I thought she would like and try to fit in food that was good for her as well whenever possible. When she was in a silly or laughing mood, I would joke around with her, do stuff to keep her laughing, or put on a sitcom she liked. When she wanted to sing or dance, we would put on some music or one of her musicals that she loved. In fact, before he walking got worse, she would often get up and dance to the musicals, especially this song from Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.



Often with Alzheimer's, the person can be abusive or mean or just respond in an agitated way and while mom had a few moments here and there, she was overall a happy person. I used to comment that when Cindy smiles, I know today will be a good day and often I would hear her giggling or saying "I looooove youuuuu" (she liked to hold the vowels long as she said it sometimes). She had a temper at times in her younger days but she was also a loving person when she wanted to be so I did all I could to bring out the loving side of her.  I bet if I interviewed the doctors, nurses, family and others who interacted with her, you would see that the woman I began calling Cindy a couple years ago to eliminate confusion left a positive impression on those she interacted with or left them with a song in their head that she was singing or humming.

I am not going to sit here and say every moment in our journey together was happy together. There was a lot of stress involved at times too. Will she let me get her up for a doctor's appointment today? Will she eat the food I gave her? Is she sick or okay today (which got even harder as she had more issues communicating that)? Will this appointment come with a long wait that could set her off? How do I comfort her when she is agitated or I can sense something is off with her today? How much of her "baseline" will remain intact after she is sick or loses someone close to her again? How do I balance her desire to spend time with family and friends while also not letting the environment become too much for her to take in, especially as the diseased progressed?


I shared parts of her story because I wanted people to see the struggles she faced as well as those around her. To learn from others about how they handled stuff and maybe also help some others who might need some advice from someone going through it. And I wanted people to know that Alzheimer's impacted the life of someone I loved deeply and I was not going to let that be the only thing people knew of her. I wanted people to see she was still a lovely person who brought joy into a room when she interacted with people despite this horrible disease impacting not just her memory but many of her basic body functions and abilities as well. When she was diagnosed with this disease, all I could picture was what I saw TV with the grandmother forgetting the kids names and walking into a room in her underwear but I learned so much watching it first hand and how it impacted mom and her everyday life.

Below I want to share a video of my mom at her own birthday party for several reasons. It shows her happy spirit. It shows that she was surrounded by family and love. And it also shows the confusion Alzheimer's caused her as she does not realize until we mention her name that it was in fact her birthday we were singing about.


Every day, every decision in my life revolved around mom and I do not regret that one bit. In fact, if I had it to do over again, I would. Even as I write this, I do so knowing I actually miss waking up to her giggling and getting her food and stuff ready for her day.  When I got married in September, we did not take a honeymoon because even after the wedding, it was right back to taking care of mom and I do not regret that either because I was happy to be there for her.

I miss my mom so much that it hurts. It hurts to see her stuff at the house. It hurts to not get her up and ready for the day. It hurts walking around a store and seeing stuff I would normally buy for her or look for things she might enjoy that often times I freeze as I stand there. It hurts to talk about her or when someone asks me how I am doing sometimes. It hurts to not hear that laugh anymore, getting a hug in or hearing that "I looooove youuuu"!



So I write this in the hopes that when you speak of Cindy and share her memories, you do so knowing she handled this shitty disease with the same fight and determination she showed anyone who picked a fight with one of her brothers as a kid but also sharing love, laughter and a song that often left those who heard it telling her how beautiful her voice is. She made those who came in contact with her feel loved or at least happier that they knew her. I know she is no longer battling Alzheimer's and she is with people who love her but the pain here without her is real as is the reality that she is no longer apart of our lives.

Take advantage of those moments you have with people you love. Find the bright spots in your life even when sometimes it feels like the sky is falling on you. I did my best to enjoy every moment I could with my mom and hope that if her story helps just one person, inspires someone to find a cure or make life easier for those living with Alzheimer's, it was worth it to share Cindy's story. My hope is that she is not just forgotten as just another person Alzheimer's took from us but see the person she was to those who cared about her.

And don't forget to tell the people in your life, "I LOOOVE YOUUUUU!"


Comments

  1. So we'll written Chuck. You will always have your memories. Your mom sounds like such a sweet fun loving woman. I'm glad you shared your story. Thank you.

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  2. Wonderfully written and a great tribute to your mother. I wish you peace on your journey to rediscovering who you are.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Mitch. Sorry I did not see this sooner.

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