A Long Goodbye: Death, Mourning, and Alzheimer’s

My Mother-in-Law died this past week after over a decade of struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease.  We all miss her.  A final goodbye is still difficult, even when we’ve seen it coming for a long time.


Watching her succumb to dementia over the years, I feel like we not only said this last goodbye, we’ve also said 100 little goodbyes along the way.  And as I mourn her death, I find myself mourning not only who she was and how I knew her, but also the ways that I was precluded from knowing her as a result of her illness.


I mourn the caring, supportive, and loving person who is no longer among us.  I mourn the creative artist who used her paintbrush and block prints to show us her perspective on the world.  I mourn the curious woman who asked questions.  I mourn the woman who would regularly use a poker cheat sheet, but then take the whole pot with her winnings.  I mourn that the friendship between us slowly became more and more one-sided as she forgot who I was, instead of growing and deepening over the years.  I mourn the involved grandmother I know she would have loved to be to my two young boys.  And the list goes on and on.


We spent the last few days looking through pictures of her life.  We recalled various interactions. We shared stories.  We celebrated her, and all that she brought to us over the years.


In all of this, we are reminded of the wonder and fragility of life.  We remember the importance of spending time with family and friends while they are alive and huggable.  We remember that none of us knows the length of our lives, or for how much of that time we’ll be healthy.  We remember that today is the one day we have.  We remember to love.



On a related note, if you want to learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease, I highly recommend the novel Still Alice.  With Alzheimer’s becoming increasingly prevalent, it’s a book I think everyone should read.

2 thoughts on “A Long Goodbye: Death, Mourning, and Alzheimer’s

  1. Lesley

    So sorry for your loss. I never got to know my mother in law. She has had dementia for as long as I have known her. My children have never known her nor had a relationship with her. Only in the last year or so has anyone in that family admitted what has been happening all these years. Your family has been so lucky and proactive in feeding a very special type of relationship. One that is created anew with each encounter. This has its own gifts and benefits as a practice. It would be nice if we could relate to each other as if for the first and last time at each day. This is one your most eloquently written posts, one of my favorites.

    • Yes, we were (and are) fortunate in so many ways.

      Thank you, sweet Lesley, for everything.

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