“Today would have been Mom and Dad’s 69th wedding anniversary. Today will also be the first time Dad spends it without her. My sister Mary Ann and I decided to pick him up this morning and take him out to the cemetery with some flowers for him to give her. When we got to his house we wanted to see how he was feeling today before telling him our plans. He seemed to be having a good morning, so we asked him if he knew what today was. He asked if it was someone’s birthday and we said it was not. We told him it was his anniversary – what would have been his and mom’s 69th. He started crying.
‘Would you like to go out to the cemetery and take her some flowers?,’ we asked him.
Through his tears he said, ‘I want to go see her.’
We loaded him up in the car and drove to Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery. It is a beautiful place. They have a fantastic cart pick up service available to anyone that cannot walk the distance to the place their loved one is buried. They pull up to the section they are buried and pick you up at your car. They take you where you want to go and leave the cart there and they walk away while you visit – for as long as you choose – and return you to your car when you are done.
It was a very emotional visit for Dad. He cried a lot.
‘I am so blessed to have found her. I wouldn’t trade one moment I had with her,’ he kept saying.
We all needed tissues.
He loved the flowers we brought for her. He sat with us for awhile. Sometimes crying. Sometimes talking. Sometimes in silence.
We wondered what was racing through his mind. Were they young, old, raising children, enjoying their (earlier) later years together? I do believe his memories are filled with her before dementia because the latter are too painful to keep inside. I think that’s what happens when time goes on – you remember the good stuff. All we know is he misses her so much it hurts.
On the way home he asked to stop to visit with our late brother Jeff also, which we did. He waited in the car with more tears flowing down his face. It was a morning filled with so many wonderful memories from the past wrapped together so tight it caused a pain inside that felt as though you might not be able to breathe. I believe this is what love is. It is so incredibly beautiful and when given completely to someone, it is a feeling that defies description. What comes with loving someone in this way is the pain and loss it brings when they go before you. What I do know is when you love someone, it’s a risk you take knowing your life may one day go on without them in it. For Dad, it was worth every moment to give his love completely to Mom and to Jeff. As much as it hurts and how broken his heart is, he always says, ‘I wouldn’t change a thing about my life.’ He chooses to love completely and we are all the lucky recipients.
We take one day at a time. He is losing weight and sometimes his heart is tired, but he is hanging in there. We love having him back in his home. He goes to church on Sunday’s and this Sunday we did our family breakfast at a restaurant he enjoys – there were 17 of us. We haven’t done that in a long time.
Normally after church he is so tired we take him right home, but this week he was adamant about everyone going to breakfast.
‘It’s all I want, to be with my family.’
We decided to take a chance. He was exhausted but could not have been happier. He cried a few times just watching everyone enjoying their time together.
I told him we could take him home whenever he wanted to go and he said, ‘If I go right here, it will be OK because I’ll be surrounded by everyone I love.’
It’s hard to tell him no to things he wants to do when that’s how he feels. So we have decided to try to do the things he wants to do rather than keeping him home, waiting…
We are going to help him live until he is ready to join his Mary Jane and Jeff again. And we will be left behind with amazing memories and a loss we cannot imagine. What a gift of complete and wonderful love they so selflessly gave us!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Becky Gacono of Annville, Pennsylvania. She has chronicled her mother’s dementia journey on their Facebook page, Our Journey Through Our Mom’s Dementia. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories in our free newsletter here.
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