I’ve always loved Miller Williams’ poem “Let Me Tell You,” which ends this way:
“When your father dies / take notes somewhere inside. / If there is a heaven / he will forgive you / if the line you found was a good line. / It does not have to be worth the dying.”
Since 2003, when my mother was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I have been taking notes “somewhere inside.” My purpose in starting “Our Long Goodbye” is to chronicle my experiences with my 82-year-old mother’s late-stage Alzheimer’s (often called “The Long Goodbye”). Though I can only tell our story, I believe my family’s experiences with my terminally ill mother and my 86-year-old dad may be similar to those of other families, stories that may or may not ever be told. As I writer, I realize that I sometimes speak for those who cannot or do not record their life events, however mundane or momentous.
My audience is anyone who has dealt with Alzheimer’s disease or another terminal illness. Any care giver who is so ragged from caretaking that he or she has to escape to the garage or to the car or to the grocery store parking lot and cry or scream. Any son or daughter who has hoped to build a better relationship with a parent before it’s too late. Any child or grandchild who cherishes every moment until death comes for an aging Mom or Dad, Grandma or Grandpa.
My goal is that writing this blog helps me record some of the details I might otherwise let pass me by, nuances that may go unnoticed simply because I have spent many years caring for my mother. As a writer, I know this is the greatest lesson, one I learned from my husband: “Pay attention. This is everything. Pay attention.”