I have spoken to a couple friends who had dealt with similar situations like mine--coping with a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer's. It is not easy to see someone you love slowly fade from you, slowly become someone you barely know. The three of us recently lost our loved ones, and our sorrow is bittersweet. Essentially we lost them a while back, and maybe some of the mourning began then. It is sad to see someone you loved, adored and cherished slowly become a different person. They become quick to anger, less kind, forgetful, paranoid, threatening, and have odd behaviors. Some days they may seem okay, may spend some time with you that seems so good. Other days they might be screaming or accusing. It hurts to know that the person you loved is drifting off into shadows. Sometimes you look at them and see how they used to be--see the smiles, hear the laughter, feel the tender touch--and you want it all back.
It is not easy to stay calm and patient. When my husband would be screaming at me, I would have to bite my tongue to not scream back. I knew it would do no good as it was the illness screaming, not him. But it still hurt. When he would scream 'I hate you' I hollered back 'I love you.' You learn to become a very patient person. You also learn you must have time away. And you learn to vent away from them, maybe screaming at the clouds or scolding the coat or dog, or just having a good cry.
When they die, you feel sadness and relief. The mourning I experienced as I watched him drift into the fog of frontal lobe dementia was so different from the experience afterwards.
But instead on dwelling on the difficulties of the past 6 years of the illness, I began to start to dwell on the 30 good years. I sifted through photographs and recalled each memory of the time it was taken. Sounds, scents, feelings, drifted to me. I heard his voice and laughter. I saw his big smile and the glimmer in his blue eyes. I felt him. It was so good, Yes, it brought tears, but they were good ones. And it also brought smiles.
It helps no one to dwell on those difficult times. I prefer to live with the positive. Today I found old letters and cards to each other and as I sat reading them, I laughed and cried and gave thanks for such wonderful memories.
Clay and I shared so many experiences in the 30 years prior to his illness and those far out weigh the bad ones. I know sometimes I wanted to leave, to run away from it, to be free, but in my heart I knew I had made a pledge to him--first when we were married, and second when we found out about his condition and he asked me to never leave him.
I am thankful to have had his love and to have shared his life.
I hope my friends will come to feel the same way. I hope it for their sake.