Grief for the Living

I had my mother on the phone last night. Nothing unusual in that, we talk regularly. Yet as I clicked off a wave of grief crashed over me. My dear mother is not the woman she was. She is entering a stage of life that I know all to well is a bit of a nightmare for her.

You see, my parents were in a car accident in the Autumn. Some idiot raced to catch a light (doing double the speed limit) and broadsided my parents as my dad started a cross traffic turn. Though the other driver walked away uninjured, both my parents where in a bad way. My dad cracked a rib, which in turn punctured a lung, his diaphragm, and his liver. My mum had her head bashed back and forth against the side of the car.

The Canadian Emergency services are superb (as are they here), but for a host of reasons they were taken to different hospitals. My dad had emergency surgery, my mum had to be resuscitated in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I’m not going to go into the next few months now, though I may inflict that on you at some point. It was bad.

The simple harsh result was that my mother physically recovered, my dad did not. He got infected with MRSA in his lungs, and despite the best medical science could offer, it overwhelmed him. Not surprising I suppose, he was 79.

That is another grief, and still hits me at the oddest times. Writing this I’ve had flashbacks to seeing him in the hospital, and those are memories I would gladly erase. My blackness last night had to do with my mother.

I know I am not unique in thinking I had the best of mothers. She was warm, generous to a fault, and I am not exaggerating to say to know her is to love her. On top of that she has achieved more in a life time that many. She’s started and run two businesses, and headed up three national charities to name but a few small things.

The accident though has changed her. Its her brain you see, it got knocked around more than a little. What is both wonderful, and enormously sad is that the changes are not huge. I suspect only those of us truly close to her can see them. She’s an intelligent woman, highly so, and can compensate brilliantly.

And yet… and yet… last night she didn’t remember her grandchildren, and I’m positive didn’t remember the name of my wife. I brushed over it, helped her remember again, told her little stories of our life to make it all fresh. She’ll forget again though, its her short term memory that got hit hardest.

The reason this is her nightmare is my grandfather. He had Alzheimers in a bad way. Went completely doolaly at the end, and it was my mum who cared for him. We’ve talked in the past of her fear of the same happening to her. She believes, rightly, that our memories are ourselves. To lose that is to have yourself slip away through your fingers. Now… its happening.

It’ll be years, decades even, she’s back to being physically strong (at 75 she ran a half marathon). We’ll help her remember, help her keep her mind hers.

But this morning I grieve for the living, it should not be this way.

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