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The Final Goodbye

I buried my Mom yesterday, after a long, exhausting battle with Alzeimer's. I knew, from the moment she was diagnosed, how this would end. So why is it such a surprise? Why does it hurt to breathe?

The thing about losing someone to this horrifying disease is that the loss has been happening every day of those eight years. Little by little, all I could do was watch as she disappeared in front of me. First, it was little things. She'd get confused. Forget things. My first clue was when she couldn't balance her check book. My Mom could do math in her head I can barely manage with a calculator.

As time went on, she slowed down, had trouble walking, lost her independence. Three years ago, we moved to NC, and my visits with her went from 4-5 times per week to four times per year. Eventually, she lost us, at least her memories of us. For the past two years, she had my name but no idea what it meant or that I was her daughter. About a year ago, she stopped talking altogether. Then she stopped swallowing solid foods. Six days ago, with my brother and I at her side, she stopped breathing.

I thought I was ready. I thought I would be okay. After all, she's not suffering anymore. And I don't have to agonize over each decline. But I was so wrong. This is the hardest thing I have ever done. Saying goodbye yesterday ripped open the freshly healed over wounds.

I spent three days in my hometown, Scranton, Pa, wandering around on a nostalgic tour. But every place I went reminded me of her. I had the oddest need to tell her the things I was seeing; what had changed and what hadn't. But she wasn't there. And never will be again.

At fifty, I am a motherless daughter. And even though I knew this day was coming, I am completely at loss as to how to be in this world without her.

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