by Katie Ridlington

The nursing home was a fantastic place of life and love, but eventually death. There were many little balls of sunlight that lived there, but the one who shone the brightest was Mary. I was her caregiver until the end. She passed away in April of last year. Although her dementia was aggressive, I loved every inch of her.

I walked into Mary’s room, no one was there except her, unconscious and bedrided. Her daughter who had been sitting and sleeping next to her must have gone to get lunch for herself.

“Hello, my love,” I called to her. She had been on Hospice care for about a week and was probably full with morphine and ativan. I knew she wouldn’t talk back to me, but I didn’t mind. I walked to her bedside and sat in the chair beside her. A little piece of my heart broke every time I heard the fluid in her lungs gurgle. I knew I didn’t have long until her daughter returned so I bend over her and kissed her cheek. Unknowingly this was my last goodbye.

One night after work I came to sit with her daughter. She told me stories about her mom when she was a kid. She mentioned how much the dementia had changed her. “It’s like I have two moms. One that’s long gone, that raised me. And the one laying in the bed now.”

I nodded, acknowledging that I understood how much dementia can change someone, “I never knew her before the dementia. This is the only Mary I’ve known, and it’s the only one I’ve ever loved.”

Mary and I sat at the dinner table together, she started needing help eating a few weeks ago. She was staring at the ceiling.

“Mary, take a bite,” I moved the fork towards her mouth. She didn’t move. I repeated my offer, but she seemed to be stuck. I called the nurse over to take a look. She later told me that Mary had just had a seizure and that we should continue to watch her. Another caregiver took her to her room. I was worried, I didn’t know what this meant, if this was only a one time event or were things going to get worse?

I had been working in a different part of the home, but on my way to the break room Mary was being taken to her room. I reached out my hand and she reached out hers. We grabbed each others hand and I smiled. “I love you, my dear,” I told her.

She smiled at me, a smile I will never forget, “I love you too.”

About the Author:

Katie Ridlington is a college student from Fairbanks Alaska. She is currently going to school full time and working part time. In her free time she enjoys to write, spend time with her dogs, and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.