Dementia Friendly B&B
Tales from last June [also known as “tales from my crazy times with demented Mummy”]
So, it’s Cemetery Sunday today in Ardglass, and this is not a date which usually registers with me. However, Mum [before Alzheimer’s cruelly stole her away] and I always joked that I would diligently have to attend the first Cemetery Sunday, when she was dead and buried…, and after that, I’d fulfilled my daughterly obligations and would never have to attend again.
I am not against to going to church, but Mum and I never really did “the old rattling of the Rosary beads” and today’s lovely memorial service has a lot of Rosary in it. For those of you who are not in the know, Cemetery Sunday is a lovely celebration in the village, where we hold a service in the graveyard and people stand by their family grave. It’s also a time when you see and catch up with people whom you’ve not seen for years…and you know where they will be [amongst the many, many people] as you tend to know where their own family plot is.
Anyway, THIS Cemetery Sunday got me thinking about last year’s Cemetery Sunday. I was visiting Mum in Ardview House [the lovely care home where she lived for the last 100 days of her life, as things had just got a whole new level of crazy at home]. I was in her beautifully decorated room with Mummy and with her older brother Brian and we were chatting about old times. Really old times. Really really old times…, the place and time where Mummy happily resided, comfortably recalling all of her earliest and fondest childhood memories. Anyway, we were laughing, joking and the subject of Cemetery Sunday came up. I did wonder whether to take Mummy to the service, but thought it would be too hard to explain why all the people she knew so well were in the ground. How could I tell Mum that her parents were dead? Uncle Brain asked me, “Ciara, are you going to Cemetery Sunday this weekend?” “Er…, No, “ I paused, searching for a plausible excuse as to why I had lapsed into basically being a rubbish Catholic, “Er…, I don’t have a set of Rosary beads, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it,” I joked. Brain turned to Mummy, again with a cheeky smile in his eyes, “Eithne, what kind of a mother are you, that you didn’t give this poor wee girl a set of Rosary beads?” Mummy looked straight at me and plainly said, “I’m not your mother.”
For a moment, the world stood still. I cannot even express how those words cut right through my heart. I can still hear Mummy exact tone of voice, her surprise at Brian’s jokey comment, and her own, personal clarity of thought. How could she by mother to this 52 year old? In her mind, Mummy was 20. In her mind, the world made sense. In her mind, this was the 1959…. I think. Within half a second I grinned and fired back the jovial banter that we were all sharing, “Well, I blame my mother, as I clearly wasn’t brought up as well as the two of you! I’ve no Rosary beads…can you believe it?” We all laughed and continued our lovely chat. But Mummy’s words were ringing in my ears and I can still hear them.
Of course it was the Alzheimer’s. I know that.
I know that my wonderful, loving and caring Mum would never say anything to hurt me, and real Mummy [not demented Mummy] would be so sad to have caused such a stir. I hate dementia. I hate that it robs us of our loved ones and takes them away, a tiny bit at a time, every single day. It’s a cruel disease and it really is the long goodbye. And yesterday I was up at the graveyard, cleaning up the VOGT family plots, and scrubbing marble, arranging flowers and doing all the tasks that Mummy did for years and years. I had her other words ringing through my mind yesterday, “We have to make sure everything looks nice for Cemetery Sunday.” It will Mummy. It will. Have a super sunny Sunday and give your loved-one a big hug. x