Dementia Diaries: A Journey With Dementia: Memorial Services for Mom

My dad asked me the other day if I was going to continue writing my blog. I’ve thought about it a lot. What can I write now that this is all over? There are still so many things I want to say, things I want to write down so I can remember. But beyond that, I’m not sure where to go. Over the next little while, I may write down some of the thoughts and experiences that we had during Mom’s last moments of this life. My dad and I thought it might be a good idea to keep this going and share helpful information, updates with The DEANA Foundation, etc., so we will see where it goes. Hopefully people will want to keep reading, but if not, it’s therapeutic for me to write anyway.

For this post, I wanted to share about Mom’s funeral. There were some friends who weren’t able to make it to the service but wanted me to share this with them.

Mom’s service was held last Friday, August 11th at the church building she attended as a child and then later moved back to (about 30 years ago). This place was her other home. She spend many hours worshipping, praying, teaching, fellowshipping and serving in that building. It seemed only appropriate to hold her services there.

Despite the sadness and loss, it was a beautiful service. It’s an interesting thing: years before Mom passed, she started talking about what she would want at her funeral, “just in case”. She shared who she thought would be good at giving a eulogy. She picked out her favorite hymns that she wished to have sung. She wanted my sister and me to sing (the one wish I just couldn’t honor…I didn’t feel strong enough to sing, but my sister did a beautiful job). My family and I took notes of everything we had remembered her planning for her funeral and put together a beautiful program, honoring her and the life she lived.

We did have a viewing beforehand. Dad really wanted her to look like herself as much as possible, and I know that Mom would’ve wanted to look her best. Mom had told me on several occasions that she wanted me to do her make-up (she didn’t want it left to a funeral home who didn’t know her style), so I gathered all the strength I could to honor that wish. It actually ended up being a sweet thing, but I’ll save that for another post. Her wonderful hairdresser, who she’d been going to for close to 25 years, went to the mortuary and cut and styled her hair for us. What an amazing gift that was. She looked beautiful and peaceful, as though she was sleeping. In all of the times I’d thought about a funeral, I was always uncertain if I should bring the kids or not. But it seemed to be natural to bring them to the funeral. They all had their sweet moments with grandma before she passed, and they would’ve been very sad to not attend her funeral and give their last good-byes.

David Robinson put together a beautiful eulogy. My parent’s love story was the highlight, a love that saw my Mom through her final days. I’m going to see about getting a copy to add to this post.

We used a slideshow that my husband put together for our gala (you can view the slideshow by clicking here). I absolutely loved this slideshow, especially the video footage that he was able to get in there. I feel like it brought her back to life, if only but a minute.

My sister sang a beautiful song, which I know my mom would be proud of. She loved Josh Groban (the original artist who sang this song) and the words were so appropriate to Mom. I don’t know how my sister held it together, but she did. Her friend got some video of her singing.

Mom’s brother, Jeff, also spoke. They were the closest of the siblings and it was sweet to hear his memories and stories of my mom from her childhood. I also spoke, on behalf of my family. I shared some of the things that Mom taught us in this life, little life lessons. Some were more serious, while others were humorous and I included some stories and memories to illustrate how she taught us each thing. This included things both before and after her dementia. One thing my dad and I talked about was not leaving out the dementia parts of her life. Hard as they sometimes were, this was still a part of her life and we loved her despite the changes that the disease brought on. In fact, we have many funny stories and memories during this time of life, and we will cherish those forever.

Lastly, we had closing remarks from a dear friend and also leader in our church, Carl Harris. He gave us a beautiful message of hope and healing, reassuring us that this isn’t good-bye, but just a “see you later.” Mom is happy and free. She is reuniting with her parents and other people she loves. We are the sad ones, as we have this void without her here. But it isn’t the end; we will be together with her again someday.

After her funeral service, we traveled to the cemetery where she was laid to rest. Something kind of comical (at least, now it’s comical)….when we arrived to the cemetery, the plot that was 2 spaces to the left of my grandparents was dug up. We were a little worried about this because my dad had been thinking that he bought 2 spaces to the right; we thought they’d dug up the wrong grave! Turns out, Dad had looked at the map wrong, so for the past year and a half, he’s been taking pictures of the wrong spot. Ha ha. We were just relieved that they didn’t dig the wrong spot!

Mom’s kids and grandkids each got to keep a purple rose from Mom’s arrangement. Dad also bought carnations for each person to throw down on her casket after it was lowered to the ground. Something that brought tears to our eyes was when they lowered the casket; my 3 year old nephew watched as they lowered her and repeatedly said, “They dropping grandma, why they dropping grandma?” I didn’t think that he really understood all that was going on; just goes to show that kids pick up on more than what you think. Sweet baby.

Our wonderful ward (church) family put together a nice luncheon back at the church for all of our family and close friends after all of the services were done. It was nice to be able to come back and sit down with family and not have to worry about fixing a meal or going out somewhere to buy ourselves food. They even decorated with purple (which was our theme for the day, since purple is the color for Alzheimers/dementia awareness). They even packed up the leftovers and sent them home with us, so we didn’t have to worry about cooking that evening or the next day. What a burden that was lifted from this sweet service that they did for us! We had a slideshow playing (with lots more pictures that people sent in of Mom) during the luncheon and my husband and I put together a track of some of Mom’s favorite music that he had playing in the background. I kept myself busy in the week before the funeral by sewing up pillows for all of Mom’s grandkids, made out of her shirts, that they each got to take home with them. I embroidered a poem onto the fronts of the pillows, a message from Grandma to her babies.
“This is a shirt
I used to wear
Whenever you
Hold it
Know I am there
Love, Grandma”

My dad said it perfectly, in one conversation we had after Mom’s passing: it’s like we are mourning 2 losses here. One is the loss of the person she was, the life that we had with her (the life that Dad and she had built together). The second is the person she became. No more obsessive tapping on the doors, no more giggling like a little girl when we give her hugs, no more grabbing dad’s hand to take him to the back room to show him the laundry pile that she threw into the corner of her bathroom floor. We miss those little things, yet we still also grieve the person she was before all of this. It’s a complicated grieving process.

We are very grateful to all of our family members and friends who came to Mom’s service and who have been here for us over the past few weeks. We are thankful for all of the wonderful caregivers that have helped us on this journey; all of her caregivers were there and they have become like family to us. We feel another void not having them around everyday. Several family members and even friends traveled from afar to come pay their last respects to Mom. I had friends who didn’t really know my mom, but who came just to be a support to me. We’ve had meals brought in, gifts left for us, sympathy cards, flowers, phone calls, texts…the list goes on. My dad and I both want to express our deepest appreciation for all of these kind gestures. We couldn’t get through this without the love and support that we have received from everyone around us. Since the week before Mom passed, we have had a constant flow of family of friends coming and going. Dad’s house hasn’t been empty at night since Mom’s passing and there have been very few moments that either one of us have been alone. On Sunday, the last of the family members left for home and we are now left to settle into our “new normal” without Mom here. It is hard, but made so much more bearable by the love that we have surrounding us and the faith and hope that we will be reunited with Mom again someday.

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