Today makes three weeks since I saw Mom. I try to fill my mind and my day with positive thoughts and busywork. The memory of Mom’s smile, her touch, her presence, especially her presence, interrupts. Who knows how long our nation will be under quarantine? Who knows how long my mother’s mind will remain imprisoned? I’m hopeful and prayerful that our lives can resume sooner rather than later. However, when that time comes, nothing will be as before—so much time, lost. So many lives, too. There are no words.
I realize that every day that I can’t see my mother is another day she cognitively declines. Three weeks ago, when we said goodbye, I told her that I would see her tomorrow. Tomorrow never came. Weeks later, I wonder if she waits and looks for me. Does she think of me? I doubt it. But, if she does, it’s a passing thought. Mom doesn’t remember a minute ago, let alone a day. And yet, because she doesn’t remember, I believe that somehow God is blessing her by keeping her from knowing about this horrible virus. Every day that passes, I find myself entertaining a sobering thought: If Mom can’t remember me, she can’t miss me. I know that her decline runs as fast as the Covid-19 virus spreads. And there is nothing I can do about either. It’s comforting, however, knowing that those within my caregiver’s group are going through similar feelings of separation anxiety.
When Mom’s facility offered Facetime to families wanting to see and speak to their loved ones, I signed up. Ignorance is bliss, so they say. It never dawned on me that Mom would not be receptive. I guess I’m still in denial of her disease, and I can’t or won’t allow myself to accept her continual trajectory, a path with no promise of a reunion. Not in this life, anyway. Half convinced I told myself that if she can see me and hear my voice, she will know that I have not forsaken her. To this day, I refuse to let go of the thinnest thread of hope that Mom will come back into reality and remember me. This hope helps me retain a sense of sanity, I guess.
The anxious little girl inside of me emerged when our Facetime connected. I didn’t know what to say, but I understood that I had to be the one to initiate the conversation. Mom sat in her chair, holding her “baby.” She looked wonderful. Her hair was neat, and her clothes appeared fresh. I was happy to see that at least her appearance met my approval. Her room was in disarray, though, a regular occurrence when I visit. Mom still believes that she will leave, so she pulls everything out of her closet and folds them neatly and places them on her small loveseat. Seeing this and knowing that I am helpless to return her clothes to her closet while redirecting her “wants” disturbs me. But this sight quickly became irrelevant when I noticed that one of the doll’s arms was missing! Oh, my God! What happened to her arm? And where are her clothes? I suddenly had more questions than I had comments.
The person assisting with Facetime said that Mom tried feeding her “baby” cherry yum-yum and that the baby’s onesie was stained, so they took it off to wash it. Okay, that’s good, I thought. Couldn’t somebody have at least helped her redress the baby? Luckily, the “baby” has more clothes. I told the assistant where another outfit was, and would she please help Mom dress the baby. She did, and all was well. As for the missing arm, Mom didn’t seem to be bothered by it. I didn’t draw attention to it. I have since scoured the internet in search of another doll similar in appearance. I found her, and now I wait for her arrival. Switching the “babies” will be something else I will have to figure out. I’ll think about that when the time comes.
I refocused my attention back to Mom. I told her she looked beautiful and asked her if she was having a good day. I told her I was coming to see her in a few days. But everything I said was a moot point; because after a moment of trying to interact with her, I realized Mom was clueless as to who I am. She was utterly uninterested in simple chit-chat. When she looked away from the monitor and resumed holding her baby, I knew our visit had ended. My and my mother’s relationship had turned another corner.
Since our Facetime visit, I have thought a lot about Mom’s forlorn look, and how all of us are feeling a sense of abandonment. With all that is going on in the world right now, I find myself diving deep into the knowledge that God has not forsaken us. Never has, never will. It’s humbling to know, realize, and accept that although we are grappling to understand this pandemic, God remains in control. Yes, we are hurting. Yes, we are struggling to survive. Yes, some are dying. Yes, we are tired. Yes, we are afraid. Yes. Yes. Yes. But, so was Jesus. Remember? Did he not feel forsaken? Did he not call upon his father and ask, “Why?” Did his body not hurt when torn or when his blood pooled beneath his feet? Do you think he felt alone? After all, he suffered pain from being separated from the love of his father and his people. Did he not sacrifice his life for the life of those he loved? Did he not distance himself while he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane? Yes, he did. (Mark 14:32-50)
Hopefully, social distancing will end this deadly virus. Isn’t now the time for us to fall upon our knees and spend time with our creator? And maybe, just maybe, we will find clarity in the uncertainty that is plaguing our society. Without a doubt, we will endure more painful losses before the Covid-19 virus resolves. I don’t want to think about losing someone I love, but it is a possibility. It’s a possibility for all of us.
Easter is coming, and with it comes hope and promise. The sun will shine on us again, and we will prevail and celebrate a new day. We will conquer this pandemic, just as Jesus conquered death. And that is the final scene worthy of a standing ovation!