I’ve thought long and hard about this question. I wondered if I could put into words what I really think that it feels like to be a caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease. I started thinking about it after momma made a simple comment the other day and it all became clear to me. I hope I can do it justice.
Mom out of the blue, sitting behind me in the car, as my brother gets out to pump gas. We were alone. “I don’t know where I would be if God hadn’t given you to me“. It doesn’t happen often, usually, it’s something I haven’t gotten right or something that I have forgotten. I won’t lie it brought tears to my eye…allergies I’m sure!
Imagine if you will…close your eyes if you must.
You are alone in a forest. Somewhere you have never been, somewhere totally unfamiliar. It’s dark and it’s foggy and your visibility is limited to just a few feet in front of you. You don’t know which way to go. Which way will lead you out? You have to make a decision you just can’t stand there. It’s not freezing out, but there is a cold dampness that seeps into the fibers of your clothing until it penetrates your body and you can feel it deep inside your bones. You’ve chosen your path and you just keep your fingers crossed that you’ve chosen the right way.
The low hanging trees leave you inching your way through the underbrush unable to see. Some of the brambles move out of your way easily. While others snag at your sweater and exposed skin leaving sharp little cuts that will become even smaller scars.
You make your way through the trees until you come upon a creek. The water is flowing way too fast. It’s muddy debris passing by you with alarming speed. You have to get across somehow, but not here. You can’t take the risk. You have to stay safe. Everybody is counting on you. You continue on through more briers as you make your way upstream to an easier spot for crossing over. Where the water will be moving much slower, somewhere much safer. You finally get across, that wasn’t so bad.
You have to keep moving. You cross fallen, moss-covered trees as the mist swirls around your legs making it impossible to see where you’re stepping. It’s dark and smothering in the forest, but you must keep on. You’re tired, your feet hurt, and you just want to rest; but you know in your heart that you just can not stop.
You have to get through you have to get out. Did you take the wrong turn? Should you have gone right then left? No one to tell you, there’s no one to ask. You just know in your heart you have to keep moving.
To stop is to admit defeat and that just isn’t possible. Through your constant moving, thinking, and rethinking you fail to see the deer snacking on the forest floor. You miss the hawk soaring high above your head. You don’t have the time, you must keep going.
A slow drizzle begins now as it gets even darker beneath the canopy of the ancient trees. They seem to stare down at you watching your every move. Swaying back in forth as if chuckling over your choices. Looking forward you see a brightness up ahead that you haven’t seen in such a very long time. You continue to march on as it gets brighter and brighter the closer you get. You stand straighter and walk a little faster.
Finally, you break out of the darkness into the blinding beauty of the sun. The light is so bright you can’t help but smile as you look at the wildflowers growing about. You’ve found peace and love. Sunshine and rainbows. You could stay here forever. You look around at all the glory.
This is when you realize that this is but a very small meadow. A spot of sun in the middle of the dark. Ahead is the rest of your journey back through the woods. Back through the trees and the brush, the mist and the fog that you hate so much.
Then you go to sleep and wake up to start it all over again. Do you take the same path or choose another? You finally come to the conclusion that no matter which way you go, which path you choose, they all lead to the hell of saying goodbye.