For a long time after my mother died, I refused to think about my loss or her devastating descent through dementia. It was much too painful to remember what Alzheimer’s took from her and did to her, and all I could visualize was the helpless stranger who no longer resembled the mother I knew in any way. But time has thankfully helped to blur those last dreadful years of end-stage Alzheimer’s, and older memories of my mother are once again resurfacing.
The holidays magnify this longing for her, of course. My mother loved Christmas, so naturally during this season I think of her more often. These older pre-Alzheimer’s memories are comforting as I remember the extraordinary woman she used to be.
My mother collected holiday ornaments as long as I can remember, and one of her greatest joys was decorating her Christmas tree and house the long weekend after Thanksgiving every year. There was no apparent theme to her decorations or method to her madness, and her tree ornaments were a hodge podge of every sort imaginable, from the bird nest I made with my first grade school photo glued in the center to Waterford crystal snowflakes. She collected such a vast assortment of ornaments that eventually her Christmas tree objected to the load of them all hanging upon its branches and toppled over on several different occasions. My mother proudly refused to retire a single ornament from her collection and would painstakingly rearrange them all to distribute the weight more evenly around the overburdened tree.
As I enjoy the holiday season with my own family and gaze at my own Christmas tree reminiscing, I’m thankful now for the warm and loving memories that remain, however faded they have become through the tinted shade of Alzheimer’s disease.
Image courtesy of Drew Coffman