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Adios Mamacita

A year or so ago I found an old note in a kitchen drawer scribbled by one of my daughters that said, “Amama called.” This was my girls’ name for my mother before they could say “Grandmama.” Looking at that note, I realized my mother hadn’t called me in a couple of years. She couldn’t; she suffered from dementia and had lost the ability to make a phone call. Eventually, she lost the ability to even speak on the phone, write a letter, or initiate a conversation. Not long ago I found what was probably the last letter she mailed to me; it was in a scribbly scrawl, atypically addressed to my maiden, rather than my married, name. That was in 2010 and, since then, my sister, brother, father and I have watched Mom slowly fade away culminating in her death last Monday. News of her passing was shocking, but, because of our faith, it was also strangely comforting. We truly believe that she was taken to a better place where she will no longer suffer the ravages of dementia and physical pain. We believe she was welcomed into heaven by the many, many dear friends and relatives who pre-deceased her, (one of the drawbacks of living nearly 93 years!) We are finally able to publicly grieve for the woman we began losing 2 years ago when our fun-loving, life of the party mom’s personality was gradually stolen from her by this awful disease. We are able to breathe deeply again without the pain of seeing her unable to enjoy any aspect of living. We have flung open the windows of her bedroom, kept dark for so long to enable her to rest. We threw away the plethora of pill bottles and lotions prescribed for a plaguing, inexplicable constant itching. We remember and talk openly about the good times and funny moments, laughing instead of crying. We can celebrate her life with many other friends and relatives who knew and loved her but were timid to ask about her condition, and even more afraid to come and see her, unsure what to expect. And we can be happy that even in her last days she recognized us. The last time she saw my husband she grabbed his hand, clearly said his name, and thanked him for coming to see her. She called my daughter by the nickname she’d always called her, “Katy-Poo.” And, in November, after a celebration for my dad’s 90th birthday, long after she’d stopped asking questions or conversing with us, she heard me tiptoe past her bedroom. “Hey,” she called out. “Come in here.” I quickly opened the door. She patted the side of her bed and said, “Come tell me all about it.” I did and she responded just like her old self. I curled up in bed next to her and couldn’t believe that for a few minutes I had Mom back with me. Shortly after she died on Monday, as we prepared for her funeral, I found a book in her bedside table entitled “The Book of Myself: A Do-it-Yourself Autobiography in 201 Questions,” by Carl & David Marshall. I had written inside, “To Mom with love from Constance, Christmas 1999” though I had completely forgotten that I’d given it to her. It was a book with prompts to help you write your life story. My dad said he’d never seen her writing in it. We opened it up and the words written inside were, literally, like a gift from heaven. On page 172, was the prompt “As I approach the end of my life my attitude towards death is:” followed by Mom’s handwriting, “I don’t fear it like I used to – I hope I’ve lived a life worthy of heaven.”  What a gift to us in our grief; what a reassurance from a woman who had nurtured, loved and reassured us all of her life.



11 responses »

  1. Beautifully written mom! I will ALWAYS remember her nickname for me and calling her a chicken at the barber shop. Just two of my favorite memories of my dear dear Amama.

  2. Oh Constance, that was beautifully written. I just sat down and cried. It seems you have been working on your memoirs for quite some time, before you were even aware of it (hence, the book you gave your mom). What a beautiful gift she was able to return to you. I went through dementia with my mother-in-law and she too was such a positive, energetic, loving and fun person. Though so sad when she died, I think I was so thankful she no longer suffered. And I realized I started my grieving process with her long before her death; I started grieving as the disease started robbing her of the some of the very essence of her personality,. Again, my love and sympathy to your family. And my continued support in your literary travels.

  3. Truly beautifully written, Constance. You have a real knack for this and captured the mood of the last several years and days so accurately.

  4. Jennie just sent me this. This is great, both the Post and the Blog!! I am proud of ya, keep it up! David

  5. Constance,

    I am so enjoying this. I have known you since 1977 and you still amaze me. You have a lot left to say and write about and I look forward to reading each and every word. Amy

  6. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story. I’m happy that you were able to experience a reconnection with your Mother. I see you carrying on her vivacious spirit!

  7. I have enjoyed all your blogs! I’m so sorry for your loss! You have a wonderful way with words! I have enjoyed your humor and way of looking at things! Keep up the good work!

  8. Sandra Bowman Steele

    Constance, so beautifully written, my sympathies go out to you and all your family. I always loved your mom so much when we would come to visit in Texas. She was always so sweet and fun and made our stay so memorable. You captured her spirit so well as well as describing the dimentia, which is a very painful process to go through and watch.


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