I often found my Mum sitting down, her eyes were locked on something. I really didn’t want to disturb her most times when I saw this. Yet, a few times, I’d approach her, sat next to her, and I’d ask – what are you thinking, Mama?
100 percent of the time she’d look me in the eyes and said: nothing or I don’t know…
I always accept her answer. Maybe she did not think of anything, maybe she was just feeling something, something that was not meant to be shared. Maybe she just made a trip to another place that gave her comfort.
Her resemblence with young children is growing. She uses less and less words, and she feels more and more emotions. Often she remembers her late parents, late relatives and she’d ask me where they are. I let her know that they passed away, and I could see her facial expression changes. Not long after that, I’d find her tearful, quietly. I let her cry and cry. I’d sit next to her and wait until she finished crying. I asked why she got so emotional, sometime she’d say that she missed the people, sometime she did not say anything.
It doesn’t matter, I said to myself. What matters is that she has the space and freedom to feel and to act out what she feels at that very moment. It is really touching to witness. To see someone who was so much in control of her feelings and actions allowing herself to follow her impulses warms my heart. It is indeed beautiful, even when this comes with something I consider as a cost.
Dementia brings another perk – it keeps us living in the moment. Let me give you an example. My Mum accompanied me to the airport the other day, driven by our driver. She was all teared up in the car as I unloaded my luggage and she kept on asking me when I’d return. She repeatedly asked me to call her when I was away. I hugged her, kissed her many times and told her that I’d be back in 6 days.
As I landed in Singapore, I called our driver and asked him how my Mum was. He said, she was sad for a couple of hours then she got confused. After she forgot how she felt, she did her best to remember when I’d return. See – she felt something, she experienced the feeling, she then forgot about it, until someone or something triggered that feeling again. That include my voice over the phone. Even if she wanted to feel sad longer (as she used to, she dwelled deep and long when she felt emotional), she could not. Her mind stopped her from doing so. It worked like a protection system. More over, she does not remember that she does not remember!
It is a double edge sword, for me.
While I always feel relieved knowing my Mum is not feeling the pain and sadness of missing me, my siblings, my late dad, her late parents or anyone for too long, I also feel sad that she does not keep memories, any memories, for too long.
But then again, why is it necessary to keep the memories from the past instead of being present fully with her, I ask myself. Exactly, why keep the past when what she has, infact, what we all have, is only the present.
People say dementia is a gift for people to balance out their controlling nature, towards themselves and others. I can see that.
Beyond this, dementia is also a gift for people who are the carer for these holders, as we too receive so much reflections of ourselves through these powerful mirrors being held by our loved ones who unconsciously being empowered by dementia.
I sit here, saying to myself, wow… everything, I mean everything in life certainly has a purpose.