It’s an unusual kind of mourning.
Friends who lost a loved-one to dementia before me told me that the mourning period after death would be different than typically occurs. It isn’t as if our loved one suddenly died in an accident or suffered from a physical illness where we could still speak with them until the end.
The last fifteen years, I was held captive in a state of perpetual mourning. Every few months, Alzheimer’s whittled away a little more of my husband, Marshall, and my heart. Day after day, year after year, I watched the vibrant man I first encountered in 1993 continuously drift out of reach.
When Marshall passed away on March 8th, it was nearly five years since we lived together and at least a decade since we had a real conversation. Performing shows, traveling together, enjoying an evening out with friends—or just the two of us—had long ago been taken away. Marshall had a charisma and warmth about him until the end, but that vibrant man who sparked a room into laughter and amazement was long gone.
Initially, after Marshall passed, I was exhausted and numb. Every night, his last words, last smile, and last squeeze of my hand replayed in my head like an endless tape. Next came sorrow and disappointment in being robbed of healthier years.
At this point, I’m understanding what my friends tried to explain to me. Marshall’s physical presence will always be missed, and no doubt, more sadness lies ahead, but I’m finding thoughts of Marshall progressively prompting a smile rather than a tear. I’m climbing out of the Alzheimer’s depth of despair to the side of gratitude for the countless joys we shared.