By: Paula Selland
January 25, my mom’s birthday…I miss her so much, every single day.
This photo was taken four years ago, 2017. My mom was in the late-stage of Alzheimer’s disease. As my brother used to say, “We busted my mom out of memory care,” taking her to dinner to celebrate her birthday, a normal tradition. We have four birthdays in the last week of January. It is a special week. Although not the same as it used to be, my mom had not been able to remember our birthdays or hers for many years.
My mom and dad lived in North Dakota, and I lived in Colorado. I was traveling back and forth nearly every month. We had already been back earlier that January, as my mother-in-law had passed away on January 5. Because of this, I almost cancelled my late January trip. I would question back and forth, “Should I go again or not?”
My husband always asked me, “Will you be okay if something happens if you don’t go?” Nope.
I’m so grateful that I made the right decision and went back. I didn’t know that this would be our last birthday celebration together. It was a bittersweet evening. I helped her dress and get ready, applied a little makeup even. She looked cute. As we sat next to each other, we held hands and she smiled a lot.
When our dinner came, she looked at her plate, held up her silverware and said, “I don’t know what to do with this.” I tried to reassure her, “It is ok, mom. I will help you.” Inside, my heart was breaking.
Before this disease, Mom was a beautiful, strong and faithful woman with incredible intelligence and always so well put together. She was talented, creative, a great seamstress and baker. We had no idea when we started this journey that even lifetime skills and basic activities of daily living would be hard or not even doable with Alzheimer’s disease.
We held back tears, enjoyed a meal as a family, had cake and blew the candles out together. Happy 82nd birthday, Mom. I drove her back to the memory care home, helped her get into her jammies, tucked her in like she did to me when I was a kid, said goodnight and told her I loved her. It was always so hard to leave her.
These hard, but cherished memories help keep me participating in The Longest Day, continuing the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Fundraising and volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association continues to provide me hope that someday we will find a cure. It feels good honoring my mom and others. Please join me and my team, Team Joy, on The Longest Day by starting a fundraiser of your own.
Do you want to participate in The Longest Day to honor someone you love? Visit alz.org/thelongestday for more information.