Losing someone during the 2020 pandemic is more challenging than losing them in “normal” times. I said many times that I was ready for Mom’s journey with Alzheimer’s to end. In all honesty, I thought we had 2-3 years left. It was hard to see what was so evident to others while in the thick of caregiving. When I look back at photos and videos I created from the beginning of 2020, it’s obvious now how far she had declined.
Mom walked and talked almost to the very end. She broke her leg at the start of the pandemic and died 23 days later. It seemed sudden and shocking.
Losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s causes a different kind of grief. The person you loved was disappearing slowly, right before your eyes. That’s why I thought I was ready. Mom didn’t remember our relationship. She thought I was her “very best friend.” A friend she’d known for a long time.
There were questions I would have loved to have asked, but I knew she wouldn’t be unable to answer. There were times it would have been nice to have a Mom instead of a person who needed me but couldn’t give back to me.
Losing a parent is always hard. Losing them when you can’t have a funeral or a celebration of life is more challenging. I’m a very practical person. The day after she died, I had the perfect idea for a celebration of life. It would have been simple but entirely her.
It’s hard enough to know that Moms’ celebration will have a fraction of the people at Dad’s funeral three years earlier. It’s normal, and since she lived in a memory care residence in the last three years, many of her friends have drifted away.
What’s harder is wondering if it’s even worth attempting a celebration of life? My biggest fear is that life has continued and knowing the virus isn’t under control, would we even have that many people?
Additionally, my one and only sibling doesn’t want to do two events. Fair enough; however, Dad is interned at a military cemetery. This location is 100%, not my Mom. I can’t imagine how they could make it personal enough to be worth the hour drive for a 10-minute event.
I want to have a dessert bar and stories. Mom had a massive sweet tooth, so this is perfect. I initially assumed she’d get about 30 or so people. Dad had over 300.
Losing someone during this time of complete uncertainty is more difficult because it’s hard to know how people will react to an invitation to a celebration of life.
Are they ready to gather in a medium-sized group? Have they moved on, or would the be happy to participate in something reminiscent of our old typical?
We still can’t have indoor gatherings, so where to have this event, if it happens, is also, where? There are days I think, the heck with it; we’ll do the cemetery thing and be done with it. Then I feel guilty.
It’s hard to know precisely how to celebrate someone’s life when that life slipped away, little by little for years. We lost touch with many of her previous friends.
It should be no surprise that being a practical person. I turned to the internet to research celebrations of life for someone who died of Alzheimer’s. Inviting who cared for her is suggested, but what I didn’t think about is allowing people to come to honor me.
I don’t feel I need to be honored; what I want is to mark the end of Moms’ life with the people who were in it with her. I want them to have a bit of time to think back on the person she was before her Alzheimer’s disease.
Since there are still many questions about when, where, and who may come, it seems practical to reach out and ask, I’m always advocating for caregivers to reach out, so this doesn’t seem like a time to ignore that advice.