12.03.2010

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

Mrs. H was probably one of my most-loved residents on the Alzheimer's floor. With disheveled-looking clothing, comfortable slippers, and messy hair, she walked around the unit with a beautiful smile.
She had a voice like maple syrup, thick and sweet. She sang Christian hymns and nursery rhymes easily, her tone as smooth as silk.
My body would become a sea of goosebumps when she would sing Amazing Grace, crooning softly, eyes closed, open face tilted up towards the sky, rocking easily.
Soft skin like tissue paper, warm to the touch. She let me smooth her hair off of her forehead when it fell into her eyes.
She let me grasp her hands when she spoke, eager to caress my arm or knee.
She didn't know who I was, but she knew me.
She always asked how my mother was doing, and asked me to send her regards.
She was polite and sincere in her responses to my questions.
She was a total jokester, making others laugh, brushing off compliments by slighting herself with a laugh in her voice & a silly sparkle in her eye.
She had the most beautiful blue eyes.

One morning, I did not see her in the living room area when I entered the floor, nor did I hear her voice singing out Amazing Grace. I was told she was still in bed. She was no longer able to walk. Just like that.
I went to her room, finding her resting in bed with her eyes closed. She spoke easily, and sang for me when I asked.

A few days later, she could no longer sing.
Or feed herself.
She didn't want to get up to get dressed.
She began hallucinating, mumbling and confusing words, sentences, the past & the present.
She wasn't able to answer my questions, but still purred "Thank you" with a beautiful, face-full smile when I commented on her blue eyes.

The last day of my internship, I sat by her bed, softly massaging her hands and arms. I don't know how long I stayed, singing quietly, studying the plains of emotion on her face, watching the movement behind her closed eyelids, praying that she would open her eyes, say something, smile, anything. I glanced at the pictures of her and her children hung on the wall above her bed, allowing myself to grieve the loss of this wonderful woman.

I am sad that she is in the end stages.
I am relieved that she does not seem to be aware of this, although I worry that she might be.
I am angry, so futily furious, that this disease is taking over, that her brain is dying-bit by bit, haphazardly yet beautifully articulated.

I have not gone back to visit her. I hope that she doesn't know this. I hope that she is still alive. She is the first one that I cannot bear to visit, the first one that I am avoiding not seeing, the first one that I fear hearing about.

I am afraid to see that light of hope extinguished in those aqua eyes.
I ache to think that the walls no longer echo her voice singing Amazing Grace.

I woke from a dream early this morning, where she was sitting on my couch with my mother and deceased grandmother, discussing photography and pianos. When I walked in the room, she motioned me over. I sat at her feet, placing my hands in hers. She pulled my head into her lap, wiping my hair off my forehead, and whispered,  
"I once was lost, but now am found; blind, but now I see."

When I raised my head off of her lap, throat tight, she looked down at me with those aqua eyes, shook her head, and began singing the song, clear and strong.

4 comments:

MommyGeek said...

Oh honey. What a beautiful tribute.

linlah said...

Is she letting you know it's okay to let go.

As always beautiful words strung together in a beautiful story.

MissCharlie said...

I love your heart

thebossofu.com said...

Wow. Beautifully written.
I got chills more than once while reading this post. Maybe because I know how you feel from past experience. Maybe because you made me feel it again.
My favorite resident's name was Edith.