Eulogy.

My mom’s memorial service was on January 3, 2019. I wrote this eulogy and planned to read it. In the end, I spoke freely and only used this as a guide. I added some things. I left out others. I’m not really sure what exactly I said, but I think my mom would have been proud.

How do I put into words how much my mom means to me? I have been grieving her in pieces for so long now. It doesn’t seem real that she is actually gone.

When I think of my childhood, my mom is in every part of it. She was a stay-at-home mom during my early years. I am so grateful for that. She took me to preschool. She was a room mom. She was my softball coach and Brownie leader. Sometimes she was even my substitute teacher. My friends and classmates loved her as much as I did. Our house, no matter where we lived, was always full of kids. I’m sure we drove my mom absolutely crazy, but we loved it and I think she did, too.

My mom loved to travel. My parents took my brothers and I on a yearly vacation, usually to the beach, but once to Disney World and another time to Texas. We even went to Hawaii when I was 11. I didn’t realize at the time just how fortunate we were to take those kinds of trips. Even though my brothers and I usually spent most of the trip fighting, we saw some incredible places and made lots of memories as a family. 

My parents also went on frequent vacations alone. As a kid I didn’t understand why I didn’t get to go, too. Now I am so thankful for the example my parents set of loving your spouse even more than your kids. They took time away just for them. They traveled to the Bahamas and Las Vegas. They survived a hurricane in Cozumel. They went back to Hawaii twice and I’m sure had much more relaxing trips than with three kids in tow. They went to Spain, France, and Germany. Even though my mom was already showing signs of her illness, they took the RV trip out west when my dad retired. I’m so glad they took that trip.

Life with my mom wasn’t always easy. I have my mom’s stubbornness and quick wit, so my teen years were interesting to say the least. One time she called me a bitch. Without flinching, I told her it was hereditary. She was SO MAD, but years later we laughed about it. I still think it was an awesome comeback.

At some point during college or maybe after, my mom became my best friend. I called her multiple times per day. Sometimes it was just to chat. Sometimes I needed life advice, or boy advice, or career advice, or money. My mom was usually right. I could have been spared a lot of heartache in my teens and early twenties if I had just listened to her.

My mom loved to go out to lunch and to the movies. It was one of her favorite things to do with her friends, and thankfully she enjoyed sharing that love with me. We saw many movies together over the years and always got popcorn with extra butter. Even in the later stages of her disease, my mom still enjoyed going to the movies. While her tastes evolved from romantic comedies to those a little cruder, I’m glad I was still able to share that with her.

I first noticed that something was wrong with my mom over ten years ago. It was the same week I discovered I was pregnant with Anna. I always thought I would have my mom with me as a mom. I thought she would be able to be a Grandma to my kids the way her mom was to me. While my mom was able to be that kind of Grandma for a little while, her disease made that increasingly difficult as the years passed. For a long time that made me angry. Now I realize that she taught me how to be a mom. If I can be a mom to my kids the way she was to me, they’ll be okay. We will be okay.

The last few months of my mom’s life were incredibly difficult. While the circumstances were pretty terrible, I am thankful I was able to spend that time with her. My mom didn’t know who I was toward the end, but she knew that she loved me and told me so every time I saw her. I am so thankful for the hugs and love she showed me in her last few weeks.

I miss my mom terribly. Even though her life here was way too short, I am so thankful that she was my mom.

Peace.

It has taken me more than three months to gain the courage to write about the day my mom passed away. My grief is still fresh and real, and reliving those final moments will not be easy.

My mom passed away just before 5 pm on Friday, December 21, 2018. She had been under hospice care for a month. A few days prior, her hospice nurse told us the end was near.

On Thursday afternoon, I was at her side with no plans to leave until she took her final breath. I kneeled beside her bed, I held her hand, I told her how much I love her. My dad and I stayed through the night, taking turns sitting by her side while the other tried to grab a few moments of sleep. Every time she coughed or moaned, I was on high alert.

By Friday morning, my body and mind were exhausted. I stretched out on the floor next to her bed to try to get comfortable. My eyes were red and swollen from crying and lack of sleep. My mom was still with us.

By the afternoon, my dad and my mom’s care team encouraged me to go home. While I didn’t want to leave, a small part of me wondered if my mom was waiting on me to leave to pass. I kissed her, told her how much I love her, and told her it was okay to go. With tears in my eyes, I left.

At home, I tried to take a nap. My sleep was fitful and broken. My husband and kids were watching the movie Prancer in the living room. A little before 5 pm, I awoke to the sounds of a choir singing How Great Thou Art. Though it was coming from the movie playing in the other room, a part of me knew in that moment that my mom was gone. A short time later, my dad called and told me my mom died just before 5 pm.

After his call, I was filled with a sense of peace. I can’t begin to describe it, and I haven’t felt that way again since the evening my mom died. I quickly showered and got ready to go be with my dad. When I got in my car, Lauren Daigle’s song You Say was on the radio. Since I listen to a mainstream station (Sirius XM’s The Pulse), the timing of the song felt like it was from God. It was exactly what I needed in that moment: a reminder that I am strong, loved, and held by Him.

Wanting to listen to that song over and over on the drive to Trinity Hills, I opened Spotify, looked up the song, and hit repeat. The next song wasn’t You Say, though. It was Rescue. Those lyrics? “I will send out an army to find you, in the middle of the darkest night, it’s true, I will rescue you.” Only God could send me those words in my darkest hour.

Look Up Child came on next. “Where are You now when darkness seems to win? Where are You now when the world is crumbling? Look up child.” But God.

Still Rolling Stones was next, followed by This Girl. Both songs filled with the words I needed in that moment.

As I pulled into the driveway of Trinity Hills, Trust in You began to play. Trust in You, the song I have clung to the past few years. The song that helped me through my mom’s diagnosis and decline. “When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing you to move. When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through. When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You. I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You.” I hear you, God. I hear you.

I stayed in my car until the final chords of Trust in You faded. I closed my eyes, prayed, and took a deep breath. I then walked inside knowing that even though the next few hours were the toughest I might ever face, I could do it. God was with me. God IS with me.

She’s gone.

My mom died.

It was expected and sudden, anticipated and shocking. She’s gone. I miss her.

In August of 2015, my mom was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). In the fall of 2017, that diagnosis changed to Alzheimer’s disease. On December 21, 2018, the cruel disease of dementia took the final piece of my mom away.

It’s been a little more than three months since she died. It’s been even longer than that since I’ve had a conversation with her. While dementia stole my mom away from me little by little and piece by piece for more than ten years, I was not ready for the immense pain that came when dementia finally stole her physically from me as well.

Some days I think that I’m going to be okay. Most days I feel like I’m barely hanging on by a thread. I call the day a win if I get out of bed. It’s a double win if I put on real pants (hello, comfy pj pants). My house is a mess, I can count on one hand how many meals I’ve cooked for my family, and the mountain of laundry growing in the hallway is beginning to creep into the kitchen. I just can’t get motivated. I know what I need to do, but I just can’t seem to do it.

I know my mom is in a better place. She’s no longer suffering. I know this. I just wish it didn’t hurt so much to miss her.

My mom.

Remember that post a few months ago where I said there was a reason for my writer’s block, but I couldn’t share it yet? I think it’s time to write about it.
I have started writing this post so many times. I have typed words, deleted them, typed more words, and then saved the draft for later. I have stared at my computer screen and cried, I have yelled, and I have cried some more.

My mom has Frontotemporal Dementia (or FTD for short).

If you’re my friend on Facebook, you may have read some of the FTD facts I posted last week for World FTD Awareness Week. I was vague (on purpose) about who my affected “loved one” was. In fancy medical terms, FTD is a degenerative brain disease that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. You can read more about it online, but the main thing you should know is it is a horrible, terrible disease that steals the person you love from you little by little.

The diagnosis was official in August, but we’ve known that there was something wrong for a long time. It started off with small things, like repeated questions and misplaced objects. It gradually progressed until we couldn’t ignore it or run from it anymore. I thought that I would be relieved to finally know what was wrong, to have a name for the disease afflicting my mom. Having a name gave me a term to type into Google. Google led me to a plethora of articles, medical journals, caregiver blogs, etc. Reading about this horrible disease and its progression and inevitable end quickly turned my relief into an abundance of other emotions. There is no cure for FTD.

I am angry. I want to yell and throw things. I have used a lot of profanity. I have not been a person you want to be around, and quite frankly that’s okay. I haven’t really wanted to be around people anyway.

I am sad. I can’t talk about it without crying. I have tears streaming down my face as I write this. I want to lay in bed all day and sleep. If I just pull the covers over my head and take a nap, I don’t have to think about it.

I am jealous. I’m so envious of my friends with healthy mothers. My mom is my best friend. I used to call her multiple times per day, just to check in and see how she was doing. We could chat about anything. Now, the phone calls are shorter and less frequent. It’s hard for her to follow conversations, especially over the phone. It’s too painful for me to talk to her, so selfishly I don’t call as often. I crave a close relationship with my mom again, but this stupid disease is standing in the way.

I feel guilty. Guilty for not calling, or being there like I should be for her and my dad. It’s hard to push my own pain aside, but I’m trying.

The worst part of FTD is knowing that there is no cure. No one survives this disease. I felt awful to say it out loud, but I asked my husband recently why it couldn’t be cancer. At least with cancer, you can fight it. There’s a chance. There is no chance with FTD. It will continue to steal my mother away every single day.

I usually close my blog posts with some sort of happy ending, or a positive note. What can I say here? There is no bright side to FTD. I hate this damn disease.