A Little Sadder Every Day

Matt Morris, Mike, and Mike's mom, Barbara

As most of you know, I had to move my mother to Nashville last year. She’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and assisted living was our only and best option. My mother hasn’t seen it this way. She’s accused me of stealing all of her stuff and sticking her in “prison.” She tells me she hates the food. She tells me she can live by herself, and she can drive—if I’ll just give her car back to her. After all, she says, she’s been driving since she was fifteen.

When we started on this journey, a physician friend of mine said, “Just remember, her best day is yesterday.” Although, I heard what he said, I was praying he would be wrong. He wasn’t. Mom has gotten worse. I hear the same stories several times in the same conversation. She gets details mixed up. She’ll put the wrong people in the story and confuse the time frame of events. More and more, she won’t remember the conversation we had the day before.

Unless you knew my mom before the illness, you really can’t understand how sad this really is. My mom was the strongest woman I’ve ever met. She wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything. She was a fierce Mama Bear. There are stories I can tell you—like the one when I was little kid and an older kid pulled a knife on me. My mother blew through the kitchen door like a tornado. I think that kid is still running from my mom.

My mom was wise. She always knew what to do next. Now, to see her look at me and not know what to do breaks my heart.

My dad had a major heart attack in 1988. His doctors didn’t expect him to live another 5 years. He lived until 2012—mainly because of my mother’s strong-willed care. She literally cared for my dad around the clock for 24 years. The last 2 years I know she didn’t sleep. I know this because the times I went down there to help her, I didn’t sleep. Her love for my dad was nothing short of amazing. If for no other reason (and I have a lot more reasons), I would love her simply because of the way she loved my dad.

Now, she’s fading away. Story by story, I’m losing my mom. Sometimes, she’s still herself, and I live for these moments. She’s funny, witty, and surprisingly insightful in what she notices. But other times, she’s not so sure. Sadly, the times when she’s not my mom outnumber the times she is.

I see her almost every morning for coffee. Some friends say I shouldn’t go that often. Maybe they’re right. But honestly, there’s still too many times when she’s still my mom, and I don’t want to miss one of them. Where else can a grown man go and have someone ask him if he’s getting enough sleep? After all, she reminds me, you get grumpy if you don’t get enough sleep (and I do).

Jesus promised us that there would be days when we would walk through the valley of shadows. He also promised He wouldn’t leave us by ourselves on this journey. And in the moments when we couldn’t remember, He would remember for us. He would whisper to us deep within our souls—things we might have forgotten…like who we are and who He is…and how close we now are to home.


Photo: Matt Morris (Kairos Worship Leader), Mike, and Mike’s mom, Barbara

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11 thoughts on “A Little Sadder Every Day

  1. Mike,
    Thanks for the update. YOUR Mother Was Such A Special Part Of My Earlier Teenage years. Renea and I have laughed many times about how Barbara would handle it. I loved her strong will and that she thought as women we needed to be heard.

  2. Oh, I was sorry to read about your Mother’s condition. I had not heard that before. I just wanted to tell you that when we met at church, we just clicked. We started joking and laughing and all and I could tell we could be good friends if we had a little more time together. She told me how she always looks for me in the Worship Choir. I have visited her at her new place and she has shared how she missed Huntsville. You did what was best for her, you know. It is a difficult time, but God always is with us. PTL.

  3. Mike,

    My grandmother suffered from Alzheimers for a number of years, and our experience was similar to yours. I would encourage you to continue your morning coffee routine despite what other people may say. I cherish every moment I got to spend with my grandmother (including all the times she referred to me by my dad’s name). For me, it became about simply being in the room with her. And, well, I’ll take being referred to by my dad’s name any day.

    You, and your family, are in our prayers.

  4. Continue to visit, don’t stop even when she doesn’t know you. I wouldn’t take back any of the time I spent with my mom during those days. Just agree with what they say or change the subject, makes it easier on them. Prayers for the days ahead.

  5. Let me tell you about my Barbara , my sister, my friend, my comfort. Barbara was always there if I needed her, a phone call, a piece of material, a visit, whatever my need, she was there. I have lost that friend, that sister that I knew and loved to a disease so sinister that it crept its way into our lives with no warning. This is as painful as any loss I have ever experienced. Barbara has been my strength, my shoulder. I love her so and I know she loves me. Thank you Mike for taking such good care of her. I love you and Jeannie. Aunt Karleen

  6. I traveled down that road with my aunt for the 12 years that I had her here in Franklin with me, experiencing all those emotions. I lost her in January and miss her. Visit her as often as you can while she still remembers who you are. My aunt did not know me most of the time for the past 3 or 4 years until the last few days of her life when she would cling to my hand, pucker up her lips to let me know she wanted to kiss me and mouthing, “I love you.” That rewarded me for what I had done for her for all those years. Your mother is precious!

  7. Beautifully written. My mom too bad this horrid disease and it breaks my heart a little more every day. My parents have been married for 65 years now and I see my dad living out his vows daily. I am learning about life for sure in the front row of this story.

  8. Mike my prayers continue to follow you and your Mom daily. She means so much to me as you know and has been my dearest friend for over 50 years. I am thankful for every day of those years. We share so many stories every time we are together and I am so thankful that she still remembers me or if she doesn’t she puts on a good front. The picture of her at the piano just brought back so many memories. Thanks for all you do.

  9. Mike, I was very touched by your story. I just wanted to let you know that I am so sorry about your mothers illness. I understand this illness is a long, slow goodbye. Sometimes life is just hard! I pray for those moments of laughter that you can share with your mom.

    Donna Ritchie

  10. Hi Mike, my heart goes out to you for what you are going through right now with your mom, as I can totally relate. My mom, like yours, was my rock. A dedicated, loving Christian lady, and her love for the Lord was unwavering. She had Alzheimer’s disease for 17 years. We went through many chapters, each one harder than the one before. You mentioned that some friends said you shouldn’t go so often. Your mom won’t know the difference, as she doesn’t remember the visit before, if it was a day ago or weeks..she is only aware of you standing in front of her now. My advice would be go as often as you can, as “you” will never get that time back with her. It is for you, not her. I was like you, going as often as I could. I made it part of my routine, just to kiss her and give her a hug. At times I was very weary, as I worked full time and made my day very long, but I have never regretted going. They don’t remember the visit once you leave, so if some days only allow you a 15-20 minute visit or if it is a two hour visit, it is for you. My mom is now with the Lord and is whole again. I miss her every day and I have wonderful memories of my time with her, even the days when she didn’t know who I was, the days she no longer talked or move on her own. My memories aren’t how bad her condtion became, but my time at her side. The experiences of my time with her caregivers that took care of her at the Assisted Living and nursing home. The Lord uses your time and your testimony as you visit your sweet mom. The time is never wasted. Go when you can, but don’t feel guilty when you can’t. The Lord is watching over her when you aren’t there, so must trust Him for the days you aren’t able to be there. You are a good son, the Lord knows your heart, and always remember that the things she says that hurt you is the disease… not your mom’s real heart.

    I’m praying for you, as I understand what a hard journey this is. Regardless of the circumstances, the Lord is, and will continue to use you in the lives of others as you are with your mom.

  11. I’m so sorry for your pain. Kim is going through this right now with her father. I am blessed by your stories of her and they stand as a tribute to the wonderful woman she is. I know she is proud of you!