“I wish God would take me.” My mom doesn’t remember a lot, but she always remembers to say that. Memory loss robs a person of their independence and their identity. What it leaves, is a sense of confusion that invades every aspect of a victim’s life. My mom is one of the lucky ones though, or maybe it’s me that’s the lucky one . . . she still remembers her children. The sad thing is that a few minutes after we leave her, she doesn’t remember that we were there.
Last summer, on a nice day we sat together in the courtyard of the Assisted Living Home where she lives. She expressed her usual lament, “I wish God would take me.” I replied as I usually did, “But mom, you don’t need an oxygen tank to breathe, you can walk, you can eat, you can see, and you aren’t in constant pain. There are many who are younger than you who aren’t so lucky.” She said, “You’re right,” and then she looked at the trees and the flowers and remarked on how beautiful they were. We listened to old songs on Pandora through my phone and she reminisced as some memories leaked back into her mind. But by the next visit, she had forgotten all the reasons to be thankful and once again pleaded, “I wish God would take me.” Sometimes this line of hers is followed by her little quip, “I guess he doesn’t want me?” She still has her dry sense of humor, so I reply, “Nope, he doesn’t want you yet,” and we both laugh.
But the disease has progressed since then. When I visited her a few days ago and she said it again, I explained that she has memory loss. “Is that what it is?” she replied. Then, at least for that moment, she understood why she was confused. I reminded her of where she is and how close her children are (two within a ten minute drive), I explained that she wasn’t in a nursing home (there’s no hospital bed, people aren’t sick, they just need assistance) and I told her how old she is. She replied with shock, “92! I don’t feel it.” Laughing, I said, “I’m getting old too, mom, and I don’t know how that happened either.” I put my head on her shoulder and she said, “At least I made it, even if I don’t know where the hell I am,” and then we both laughed.
I have learned that validating her feelings reassures her and helps her realize that she’s not crazy. I tell her that I don’t blame her and that I wouldn’t want to live to be old and suffer from memory loss either. I tell her that I understand that she wants God to take her and then I hug her while she cries. There is one more thing that I tell her with my arms still around her, “Mom, I know you wish God would take you, but I’m glad you’re still here, because I would miss you.” And I take a moment to just sit next to her and feel her presence because I know that all too soon, her wish will come true.
http://www.theresadodaro.com Author of The Tin Box Trilogy