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The Long Good Bye

Today, we met with hospice for my Mom. Hospice and Mom should never be in the same sentence. Yet, here I am. Today was another step in a journey that has spanned the past eight years. Eight years. I have been losing my mother, mourning her, for eight years.

My Mom has advanced Alzheimer's. It has been eight months since I heard her voice. Eleven months since she ate solid food. Feeding her 4 ounces of yogurt took forty five minutes today. The person lying in that hospital bed is not my mother. That is an empty shell of the woman she was.

My mother raised the three of us with very little help from my father, who left when I was seven. She worked three jobs at time so that we could go to college. Something she never got to do. She told me I could be anything I wanted to be. I could do whatever I put my mind to. She taught me about hard work and discipline And love. And sacrifice. She was quietly funny. She liked to wear scarves, pretty much every day. She never ate breakfast. She got terrible motion sickness. She loved Elvis Presley and The Carpenters. I never saw her read a book, but she loved to read those trashy magazines you find in the supermarket check out line.

My children are 14 and 16. They don't remember my Mom before she became ill. They don't remember how she fell in love with them when we brought them home from Russia as infants. They don't remember her voice or laugh. I tell them about her, but it's not the same thing. This hurts my heart.

Alzheimer's robs you of your loved one long before they die. First she started to forget things. Then she couldn't balance her checkbook anymore. She started asking the same question over and over again each time I visited her. It might be about the weather or my daughter's softball game. She plays soccer. Every three to five minutes, she would ask it again, with no memory of the fact she just had. It used to drive me crazy. Now, I would give anything to hear her ask me about the weather.

Tomorrow, I will spend time with her in the hospital before I have to fly home to NC. Being 600 miles away, while she loses this battle, is sheer torture. But my life is there, and she is here in Pennsylvania. Now, all I can do is wait. And cry. This hurts more than I can make you understand. While I know that your heart cannot actually break, it sure feels like it is.

if you are lucky enough to still have your mother, don't take her for granted. We all stay very busy in our daily lives. But time is the enemy. One day, there isn't any more time. One day, you don't get the chance to tell them how much you love them. I told her many times today. I can only hope she understood.

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