I Love You
by alisa dollar
Blue eyes that in times past had brightly snapped, searched dully into my own like-blue eyes. I was in turn saddened and distressed at this woman’s lack of knowledge, lack of desire, lack of recognition.
New surroundings were discomfiting to us both. My mother, trapped in the debilitating clutches of Alzheimer’s, viewed her space in an agitated and fretful manner. As for me-this simply was not home.
Home. One never truly puts a finger on what constitutes a “home.” Home is where the heart is. Home is a place to hang your hat. Home is full of laughter and memories, both bad and good. Home is the nucleus from which we are spawned. Home is a mother’s sacrifice-and unconditional love. A nursing home it’s not.
As I watched my mother look about, her hands fidgeting in anguish, I felt the need to be beside her, letting her know she wasn’t alone. All to no avail. Her lackluster eyes looked beyond me as if I were part of the fixtures in this room she did not know or understand. Eyes roamed, but did not see. Hands reached, but did not touch. Mouth opened, but no sound escaped.
I stood before her with tears running down my cheeks, grasping at something, anything to say, to make her somehow understand she was safe and not alone. This woman had done the same for me more times than I could count. I knew there surely had to be a way to reach the inner soul of this mind, that for unknown reasons was now distorted. This now helpless woman had conquered her past, becoming all she’d ever dreamed, plus some. She’d helped her husband in a business while raising four children. A sports woman, she’d bowled, hunted, golfed and, in her day, played basketball. Well-known civically, she had done many things in social organizations helping to better our small town. And First Baptist Church surely would have cratered had she not been the treasurer.
Suddenly, a thought sprang to my mind as I bent down to Mother’s level, putting my hands on either side of her chair. Eye level once again, blue to blue, I touched her cheek softly and said, “Jesus loves you, Mother,” just as she’d done to me when I was a child and hurting.
The worrisome flutter of her hands stopped. Blue eyes peacefully examined blue and a calmness settled within their depths. I knew she understood. How marvelous that a simple sentence taught to most, generation after generation, truly had the effect of quieting the mysterious puzzle of my mother’s lost spirit. Memory being a strange entity in normal circumstances was extraordinary to watch within the bounds of abnormal.
For the last time, I saw her smile and I knew she was smiling at me. As I said goodbye to my mother of the past, and greeted the present, knowing each meeting from hence would be yet another person to call “Mother,” I thanked that very Jesus for the precious lesson she’d taught me, and I, in turn, had taught my children. Jesus loves you. That simple sentence I had said by rote all my life had suddenly become a startling reality-comforting, yet squeezed tightly by stark reality. Before the monotony of dreariness crept back into her eyes, I urgently leaned into her face to quickly whisper, ”I love you, too, Mother.”
I experienced a true comprehension of inner peace and understanding of the faith taught to me since birth. While I could not fathom her illness, she no longer could practice her teachings. I knew the tables had turned. I had to trust what I could not see and turn over what I could not understand. My mother had always believed in God and His goodness. In this goodness, I had been allowed to tell my mother the one thing I should have said many times in her years of understanding and had only just said in a time she could barely comprehend. Thus the journey into Mother’s greater darkness had begun.
I closed the door to Mother’s new home knowing I had expressed to her my love. And I know she saw and heard through the memory of her soul.