Lessons from my Mum by Loïs Wolffe

We are all learning every day whether from others or our own reflections. And as Mum’s cognitive abilities diminish in the face of complex dementia, I continue to learn from her.

Time is not linear

I love the idea of time travel and have always been slightly disappointed that time marches doggedly in one direction, towards the future and the unknown.

But it doesn’t really, does it?

Mum has shown me that time is elastic, and a bit bouncy.  If you’ve just woken up from a nap and can’t remember that it’s mid-afternoon, why not have your breakfast of toast and marmite?

Adapt to your circumstances.

We can find contentment by focusing on what we have in life.

This has always been one of Mum’s superpowers, to adapt wherever she finds herself.

As Mum’s world contracted, she didn’t focus on what she could no longer do, she elevated what she could do. She fed the birds in her garden with increased enthusiasm and renamed the garden her wildlife sanctuary. Regular visits from a pair of collared doves, red squirrels and thousands of tiny frogs justified this new name.

Now as she struggles to make conversation, and is mostly confined to bed, she still makes the most of her circumstances, smiling gently as she brings the lavender pillow to her nose and breathes in the soft, sweet, relaxing scent.

Write down your stories

Some years ago, Mum filled a notebook with stories of her everyday life.

These stories were an audio comfort blanket when she began to struggle with conversation, no longer had the capacity to cope with an audio book or follow a story on the radio. Her favourite thing was to listen as we read her familiar words to her. Initially she provided extra details (usually relating to the temperament of a pet) but latterly she serenely lets the familiar words wash over her.

Take me as you find me

When I first suspected Mum had dementia, I continually focused on the gap between how Mum was Before and how she is Now. I feared how she might be in the Future. These thought patterns ramped up my sadness and sense of grieving as I lost a wee bit more of the Mum I’d known.

Instead, I tried to learn from Mum’s ability to make the most of what she’s got, and I’ve learned to focus on who Mum is today and how she is now.

This focus has brought me real contentment and calm in the peace of being with her. We hug, I hold her hand, we sniff the lavender. Often, she will snooze when I tell her that I will still be here when she wakes up. I sit quietly, sewing or knitting, and when she wakes, I’m still there. We hug, I hold her hand, we sniff the lavender…

I am still sad to know that Mum won’t always be around, but this fierce love survives everything, and Mum is teaching me that even as she leaves, I don’t have to let her go.