In this cosmic dance we call life, we all find ourselves surrounded with the ebb and flow of the universe. There are times we feel alive, vibrant and full of energy. Conversely there are times we feel subdued, more reticent and introspective; times when we are in the flow and life moves freely through our spirits. And there are times when we feel the need to retreat and reflect. Such is the ebb and flow of our lives. Such is the dance of life.
As the sole caregiver to my parents for nearly a decade, the ups and downs of life have never been more apparent to me than they are at this very moment. For it is now, in my final days of being a caregiver that I am able to look back and reflect upon the impact and significance of that role. Over the past ten years, being a caregiver has helped redefine who I am today. Caregiving has created opportunities for me and enriched my life in ways I never imagined. I’ve learned patience, to listen, to live in the moment, to celebrate the little victories and recognize when to let go of the defeats; to educate, to advocate and to above all create opportunities for dignity for our elderly loved ones.
Now my caregiving days are numbered. Cause for celebration on the one hand and cause for tremendous grief on the other. Convoluted and confused, but such is the role of caregiving with its twists and turns, ups and downs, losses and victories.
My mother has fought the good fight against the battle of Alzheimer’s disease, but it is now coming to an end. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s nearly fifteen years ago, she has slowly decayed and lost her vibrant self to this hideous disease. Each stage brought changes, some subtle and some quite obvious. Yet painstakingly in each stage she lingered and courageously flirted with each inevitable loss. For me, I grieved each loss through each stage and watched this disease rob her of every dignity except that of the love of her daughter.
This disease has stripped my mother of every earthly possession. Lost is her beauty, her passion for life, her laughter, her love of family and friends, her memory, her speech, and her ability to perform the most basic of human functions. This disease has eroded the very core of her being. Leaving in its wake a mere shell of a human being.
Now in her final days, I honorably fight to preserve her dignity. I advocate for care and steadfastly make sure her needs are being met. Confused and afraid of losing my physical connection to my mother, I realize I have already lost my mother so many years ago. It is through my loss that I connected with her spirit. In advocating and staying by her side, when others in the family would not, I realize I shared a connection with her that no one else will ever have. Having been entrusted with the overwhelming responsibility of being a caregiver for a decade, I can truly say our special connection has been a gift. I am proud to have been her daughter and grateful for our time together in the dance of life.
Katherine Dorn Zotovich
Katherine’s mother passed less than a week after writing this article.