She’s not here any more

After almost fifty years of marriage as we shared our growing, mutual love, we parented two marvelous and sometimes frustrating children. Now Margie’s is utterly dependent, who looks at me and looks to me in so different a way, taken away by dementia and Alzheimer. Once a deeply loving mutual relationship is now like mine with our children when very young.

We talked a few times about celebrating our fiftieth anniversary. But already she was not really here. When we were with friends, she smiled and chatted as if she recognized old friends, but too soon, in a panic she wanted to leave. She once was so social. How uncomfortable it must be to look around at faces that tease you with faint familiarity, yet you feel a stranger. How strange it must be living in the tiny moment of right now! Few if any memories, so surroundings are strange. Without memories is there any sense of the future? How lonely and eerie it must be living in the island of this tiny moment!

She often looks around at our home we planned and had built, asking, what building is this? Whose house are we in? I want to go home. Home? Does she want to escape to the home that was safety for a young child? Does she have an aching realization as she asks, where am I — an existential cry of the soul?

I can hold her, hug her, talk with her, but she is not here. She the sharer in life and love now a scared little child.

And I remember Callie, our daughter's cat old in cat years and with inoperable ills. I held Callie gently as our daughter stroked her and petted her, talked to her gently and cried, while the vet put her to sleep. Why do we put down our beloved pets, yet question death with dignity so we prolong unspeakable suffering for the patient and family?

She often said urgently, 'I want to die.' Decades ago after I visited church members in ICUs, I talked with her about my feelings, and we both often said, we did not want to be kept alive. I wonder if, when she said she wants to die, she remembers those conversations and this is a very lucid, clear cry from some deep memories in her soul.

Margie died July 23, 2013 after over 6,300 days of memory-less dementia.

Copyright © 2005, 2014 John F. Yeaman