“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 (NRSV)
Mom had Alzheimer’s Disease. It crept in over the course of ten years, and we noticed little things at first. Gradually, her memory, comprehension abilities, and interactions with others shifted so that they weren’t as sharp at they had been previously. Her personality, even though it was much the same was, at the same time, changing so that she was less inhibited, far more anxious than I could ever remember, and less talkative. Her sense of humor, once something she guarded so it didn’t show too much, began to be delightfully more noticeable, and her opinions were a bit more her own than Dad’s.
She had more physical ailments, and incontinence became an issue. As the disease progressed, she began to fade away. My dad has said all along that we lose her twice. Eventually, the inevitable happened. We had to move her to a nursing facility where she could be more carefully watched because Dad just couldn’t keep up with her care. He tried very hard not to move her there, but we children had to intervene after Mom’s doctor said that she should be there. It was hard: hard to tell Dad that he needed to move Mom, hard to see Mom away from him, hard to have her ask to go home, hard to lose her but still have her physically with us.
Mom died a month ago. She went peacefully surrounded by my two brothers, my sister, my dad, my brother-in-law and one of my sisters-in-law. I live 1500 miles away, so I was kept informed through text messages and phone calls throughout the day. Dad had encouraged me to stay because there was no way to tell when Mom would actually pass away, so my husband and I waited. However, we were searching for plane fares and ready to purchase as soon as we knew.
The calling hours brought out well over a hundred people, and the funeral had nearly as many. We celebrated Mom’s life with tears, laughter, remembering, and most of all music. Mom was far more than her Alzheimer’s Disease tried to make her. She was far more than someone reduced to half a room in a nursing facility. Mom was a woman who loved God, loved her family, and shared her gifts. The greatest gift, besides her faith and love, was music. All of us sing and play instruments, three of us children have music degrees, and all of us have the love of music in our souls.
On the day of Mom’s funeral, our family sang, as we so often did, as the choir during her service. We sang one of her beloved songs, “Beautiful Savior.” We honored Mom because of who she was to us and the gifts she shared with us and because we love her and didn’t want her to remain on this earth bound to a body that had betrayed her. We continue to honor Mom as we share the gifts of faith, love, and music that she gave to us, and we believe that Mom’s beautiful, natural soprano voice has joined the heavenly chorus as she sings unencumbered by earthly things.
As I said in the eulogy at her funeral – her memorial service, actually – when Jesus carried Mom to her new home, he surely said to her, “Well, done thou good and faithful servant, well done.”