“Where Are We Going?”

Just over a year ago,
we moved my small mama into this space,
an assisted living 1-bedroom apartment,
in the retirement community where she has lived for the past 10 years.

She was forgetting to take her meds, you see.
And she couldn’t see to walk across the street anymore.
And she was increasingly anxious about living
independently, in an apartment with a back door.

So we sorted and sifted and made uncounted trips
across the street from one apartment to the other.
My brother, my sister-in-law and I breathed
a very large sigh of relief, and trusted that
Mom would be snug and happy for a good, long time to come.

She had a little entry way, a large bathroom, a bedroom and a sitting room,
and two large closets. Even a very small kitchen wall, with fridge and microwave.
Perfect.

Well, not quite.
The cognitive losses kept multiplying,
the fantasies kept swirling,
the anxieties grew threatening and troubling.
And the nurses in the unit began to suggest that
she needed to make the next move,
to more care,
farther away from her friends and from the center of life on the campus.

So, she and I together talked and cried and looked at options.
And with my brother’s input, we decided that the next move would
be a little bit further than across the street.
She would move to Santa Barbara, ten minutes rather than
two and a half hours away from me.

Mom, flanked by her two good friends Patricia and Ginny
on the morning we left Hillcrest.

One last look at #162.

 Mom’s new room in Heritage Court 

And this was the Big Weekend,
the move away from friends, toward family.
The move away from the normal flow of independent living
to the more restricted movement of a memory loss unit.
The move down.

One room with a bath on a hallway of 15 other such rooms,
filled with people who were further down this road
than my mom,
a lovely, large living room for everyone,
and a private dining room,

The whole family pitched in and we rented a small truck,
loading it and two cars with what was left of her 91 years of life.
We drove through southern California traffic for nearly three hours
on Saturday morning,
were met by my son’s wife and youngest daughter,
who brought us a delicious homemade lunch,
and then we
unpacked it all and began hanging pictures.
In the process, we introduced her to aides and residents,
trying to get her settled as quickly and thoroughly as we could.

I told her she now has what the Brits might call a ‘bed-sit.’
Her bed fits nicely in the corner, out of sight of the entry.
Her blue cabinet still holds her precious Royal Doulton figurines.
Her plates and artwork are all in place.

We worked hard, all of us aging children.
My brother’s wife is an artist and a work-horse,
and together, we make a formidable team.

Dick’s sister,
who was there to be with her own mom, spent several hours
talking with my mom, introducing her to people,
making her feel included while the rest of us schlepped and hammered,
grunted and groaned.
At the end of the day,
we left her in the dining room,
already being gracious to two total strangers,
who don’t, as she put it, ‘have much to say.’

No, Mom, they don’t.
But I’ll tell you what —
those two women said more to you that night
than I’ve ever heard them say to anyone else.

I think it is entirely possible,
that even as she continues this downward slide,
my mother will be a minister of hospitality
right where she is.
It’s a gift, you know.
And she’s got it in spades.

I find I don’t yet have the internal space to reflect on this whole thing just now,
but I’ll join this more straightforward report with Michelle, Jen, and Laura tonight.

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Comments

  1. Praying for you, dear Diana. Been there with Dad and so many others that I ministered to the years I worked for the Alzheimer Society, it is indeed a unique kind of pain…
    May His peace surround you.

    • Thanks so much, Karin. It is a unique kind of pain. And may I say thank you for your work with the Alzheimer’s Society? What a great organization, helping an increasing number of us who must deal with this dreadful process.

  2. Your attention to detail and how you continue to make things pretty and comfortable for your momma says a lot about your hospitality, miss Diana… not to mention the love, of you and the whole family.

    Blessings.

    • Thank you, Darlene. My family has blessed me big-time in this whole process. My brother and his wife in particular, but Dick’s sister, our son and his wife, our son-in-law – all of them hefted chairs and couches and boxes and bins. We could not have done it without them all.

  3. This was so touching and beautiful, Diana. I have been praying for you this weekend and wondering how it all went. What a gift to see how God uses even the human decline to His glory.

  4. Oh, Diana. I’m thinking of you and I know the consuming work this takes. I hope you find restorative rest after that move. When we moved my Dad, we teased him that with 9 daughters and my mom, he had already been living in “assisted living” for over 50 years! ; ) Well done, dear Diana. My prayers continue for you and your Mom. Sending a hug. = )

  5. ro elliott says:

    I love the respect…honor and dignity you give your mom and this very difficult and pain space…continued grace as you walk this path with your dear mom. blessings~

  6. Diana, that was truly, deeply, achingly beautiful in the midst of such hard and change. Bless you for sharing your heart and this little corner of her life. It seems that ministering gift runs deep in your lineage, straight from your mom’s precious heart to yours.

    • Thanks so much, Cindee. Yes, I learned a lot about hospitality by watching my mom do it so very well. She still teaches me, even in the midst of this morass.

  7. You phrase”she moved down”, made me think that this down is preparing her for the great big up. Heaven awaits.

    Praying for you, sweet friend, for comfort and rest.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

  8. This journey has been pressing on my heart, Diana. You and your sweet family have been in my prayers. I keep thinking of the title of Sam’s audio series: A Beautiful Trench. Isn’t that where these hard places are? Sending love across the miles.

    • Thank you, Laura, for your thoughts and prayers and for these kind words. I love the title of Sam’s series, too – vividly true of so much of life.