My Mother

My mother has dementia – it is a cruel, cruel condition. It robs you of your energy, your enjoyment of life, and your anticipation of what is to come. You need help with many simple tasks of life – you lose the ability to enjoy simple pleasures, and the ability to do things yourself.

She has not always been like this.

She was born in 1927 in Liverpool. She survived the Great Depression, only to be thrown into the horrors of World War 2 as she approached her teenage years. Her father was in the Merchant Navy throughout his working life – and during the war, lived his life at the mercy of German U-boats off the coast of Ireland and the United Kingdom. We are not too sure whether she ever properly finished her schooling as this too happened in the war.

Her brother joined the RAF at the end of the war, and went off to Canada – my mother stayed in Liverpool to help around the house and work in an office. She had a close groups of girl friends, who she kept in touch with all their lives. She struggles now to remember their names – or any particular occasions during this time. Dementia is such a cruel condition!

She met my father when he went to be curate of the Anglican church in Liverpool where she worshipped. It was the mid-1950’s. He was a southerner, from Southampton – so going to Liverpool must have been quite a culture shock for him. He already knew that he wanted to go and work overseas somewhere once his curacy ended. They were not allowed to marry until the end of his time in Liverpool – it was not the done thing for a curate to marry during his training – so they finally had their wedding in April, 1959. She has very few memories of this time now – dementia is such a cruel condition!

By June, 1959, she and my father were in South Africa – my father was given the choice of going to serve in the West Indies or South Africa – he/they chose the latter. Going from Liverpool where she had lived in the same area for 32 years, to a rural settlement in Isandlwana in what was called Zululand must have been a huge culture shock for her. She worked at home, while my father travelled out to different mission stations, sometimes gone for a few days at a time.

During 6 years in South Africa, they lived on three different mission stations, had two sons and she lost both her parents. She was obviously not able to return to England for their funerals. The first time they could return to England was in 1965. It was then that we moved to what was Rhodesia – just as the Prime Minister there declared UDI. This was to be our home for 8 years. She has no recollection of our time in Rhodesia now – dementia is such a cruel condition!

We came to England in 1973 – by now, 5 of us – to settle in Sheffield. She loved Sheffield! We were growing up, she got an admin job working in the city, and we were involved in a lively church. From there, we moved to Darlington in 1982 – a different time as we all moved away from home then – she was fully involved in the life of the community and church. Again, dementia has taken the memories of this time away from her.

My father died in 1995 – she was 32 when she got married, was married for 36 years, and has now been a widow for 26! She now has three daughters-in-law and four grandsons – loves us all, but struggles to remember names and situations – and whereas she might love to ask about things, can not bring them to mind to do so. Dementia is such a cruel condition!

She has lived in York for the last 5 years or so, surrounded by her family. She recognises us at the moment, and enjoys our company, but can not now join in with anything. Her conversation and interest in the world around her has gone – dementia is so cruel!

She says that she is pain-free, she eats well and sleeps well – but she is a shell of who my mother has been. We have enormous admiration for this amazing lady who for love, left Liverpool for Zululand – who faithfully followed her husband from place to place, who got involved in every place where they lived and ministered, and who brought up three sons.

The dementia creeps on, taking more and more of her – it is a cruel condition! We will care for her and love her for as long as she is with us – but it can’t be much fun being my mother at the moment. Her younger self would have been mortified to see her now – this dementia is such a cruel condition! She knows she is loved, she is comfortable – but she would have so wished for things to be different! We mourn for the person we have known, but who we don’t have with us any longer – we love the mother with us, but know that this isn’t how she would want things to be!

Dementia is such a cruel condition!

Written by Andrew Gready
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