Alzheimer’s; The long goodbye “I love you mum”
As many of you have shared my journey with my mother and her Alzheimer’s I want to thank you all so very much from the whole of my heart for all your support, your beautiful messages, the gorgeous flowers, the heartfelt written cards, messages and comments and the very thoughtful gifts. The blogging community of inspiring friends has come together and rallied round and the GIANT hug I have felt has meant so much to me that when I see you all next be ready for the hug of your life.
As you have been with me through all my ups and many of my downs this is the eulogy I read for my beautiful mum Carmen.
“These are the toughest words I have ever had to put together there is so much I want to say about my mother Carmen that it is difficult to know where to start and where to end, I could speak for hours about her amazing qualities.
We all knew Carmen and I believe we all know that the essence of who she was came straight from her heart. Carmen was kind, compassionate, empathetic, and so very generous to everyone, regardless of the person’s background, social standing, or religious beliefs. She would walk a mile in the opposite direction, to do a good turn for a complete stranger. I remember being around five years old when we had just returned from a holiday in Spain and two students were crying at the airport. Mum walked over to see if she could help. She did help the two students; they came to stay the night with us and ended up living with us for six months. Our house always had someone extra or two or three staying; no one was ever turned away.
Carmen was thoughtful, decent, honest and had a laugh and smile that would light up the most darkest corner. She was very trusting and would always look for the good in people and the bigger picture to what else might be happening in someone’s life. Everyone has a story she would say – she had her own and she inadvertently bought out the best in everyone she met.
Born in 1932, she told stories of her life during the war and how she would take food parcels up to the soldiers hiding in the mountains. Her father Raphael and mother Antonia owned the main shop in the village in El Palo – Malaga, where she served customers and cleaned up after the donkey who actually resided in the shop behind the counter. She spoke of her love for her brothers Rafalito and Isidro who were always getting into mischief and the great loving bond she had with her sisters, Toni, Conchi, and Susana.
Carmen helped raise her sister’s children and the passion she had for kids translated into her becoming a paediatric nurse. The love she showered on her grandchildren, Chareen, Rebecca, Stephanie and little Ian can only be described as all encompassing tenderness of unconditional love. They loved their ‘Lela’ so very much because ‘Lela’ when with them would give them her all. The love and kindness she gave them will remain and live with them forever.
Mum loved to party, and would attend every Spanish event possible and if for some reason there was no party to attend, then our house would be the party as it filled with her friends. Lots of Spanish food, Flamenco dancing and then if you begged her Carmen would sing. Carmen had a singing voice that could bring tears to your eyes. My dad Aurelio would always ask her to sing, he too loved a party and now he has his singing angel by his side.
Many of you here never met Carmen before she had Alzheimer’s, she was a very hard worker and did all she could for her family and others, always on the go, always with something to do or someone to help. With impeccable manner; writing thank you cards and never forgetting anyone she knew, making visits and phone calls to make sure everyone was OK. Carmen was a vibrant lady yet full of humility. Her dedication to helping others was who she was. She touched our lives with and without Alzheimer’s.
In a way many of us have been saying goodbye to Carmen for the last four years. Alzheimer’s started to change who she was, yet in never ever took away her kindness, her smile, her laugh and the twinkle in her eye. She loved having friends over, playing with little Ian attending mass and her Spanish club even though she would forget all about in five minutes.
Her physical and mental decline due to Alzheimer’s ripped at my heart daily. Alzheimer’s took away the mother I knew. We reversed roles as I became her mother. It was bittersweet when she called me ‘Mama’ because I wanted and needed my ‘Mama’ too.
I was very fortunate to have Lolita, Carolina, Clara, Martha, Sandra, Aleyda, Lucia, Jacqueline, Maria and Maria Rosa join our family in helping care for mum. I know and they know how much she loved seeing them and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for all the tender love they gave her and so much more, a united bond we will never lose. They did so much to help me enhance her quality of life, aside the daily routines which were not easy. They sang with her, read Spanish magazines, took her to church, parties and to visit friends and so much more, way beyond a duty of care and always with smiles, tenderness, love and the utmost respect for my mother’s dignity.
I thank you my friends and family for your support in the last four years, you gave me strength on days where I was a crying mess, you gave me love whenever I needed it and I am honored that you are all a part of my life and were always so very lovely to my mum. Even with Alzheimer’s she could see and would say what wonderful friends I had.
Darling Karen my son’s godmother has been by my side throughout my mother’s decline. Karen helped me get on with what needed to be done. Doing things way beyond both our comfort zones, nothing was ever too much. Mum loved you Karen and so do I beautiful. Thank you for being one in a million an angel on earth.
To my gorgeous husband Ian, you have been my rock, my mum loved you so very much. Our lives changed when she moved in, it was not easy yet we have grown and learnt so much having her with us. You private jokes would have mum giggling hysterically, probably the most gorgeous sound ever, a laugh we would all love hearing daily. A laugh I needed to hear it gave me the will and power to care for her even more.
My mum was truly special, one of a kind, every message I have received since she passed away acknowledges how many people remember her kindness, her vitality and basically what a amazing lady she was. I’ve had messages of how she has changed people’s lives, Carmen was not only a mother to my sister Susana and me, she used her mothering qualities with everyone, she loved, gave and accepted with no expectations.
I hope that today that you my family and friends all take a little of her compassion, a part of her smile, some of her generosity a lot of her acceptance and add them to your lives. She loved a party and together I know we can celebrate the beautiful soul she was, listening and dancing to the music she loved Julio Iglesias, Isabel Pantoja and the good old Gipsy Kings.”
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sun on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there; I did not die
Take a part of me with you forever in you heart
Smile and laugh as I live on through you my beautiful family and my wonderful friends