As a professional in the field of aging, Sara had seen it all—until her own mother broke her hip at the age of 88 and became profoundly confused, unable to live in her own home. Join Sara on her journey through the strangeness that is dementia while trying to make sense of it all and finding humor in the details. [Editor's note: Sara no longer contributes to Silver Planet, but we have made her archived blog entries available as a service to our readers.]
I opened my email this morning to find a message from my cousin telling family members that Aunt Babe died yesterday. Aunt Babe, my mother’s younger sister by two years, suffered from leukemia for about five years prior to her death and lived in the same city as my mother, Reva. Absent the dementia, Reva would not have been surprised by Aunt Babe’s death.
I have always been close to my mother. Now that I have a college-age child, I realize that as a much younger, wilder, and less wise person, I probably told my mother more than she really wanted to know. But Reva has always been very nonjudgmental and truthful, so I always felt I was allowed the privilege of honesty with her.
What do I tell my mother about her sister’s death? My natural tendency is to tell her the truth.
I called Steve, the manager of Gaffney House, the assisted living home where Reva lives, and asked him what he thought I should do. I have full trust and faith in Steve’s judgment because he is truly one of the world’s best social workers. Steve said that he didn’t have research to back up his perspective, but his personal opinion was to tell Reva the truth and let her grieve for her sister in her own way. He would notify the staff, in case the news presented difficulties for Reva.
Steve and I agreed, so I called my mother to tell her that I would be out of town and unable to visit because I was going to Phoenix for Aunt Babe’s funeral. Then I gave Reva the details. She was shocked. She began to cry and wondered how this could happen so suddenly. Rather than go over the history and details, I just said, “Mom, you always said that when it’s time to go, we go. It was Aunt Babe’s time. Since you and I are still here, it’s just not our time, but it was Aunt Babe’s time.”
We said our good-bye’s and our I-love-you’s. Before Reva hung up, she said, with a sense of resolution, “I guess it was Aunt Babe’s time to go.”
By Sara Myers
The Good Enough Daughter Blog