by Karen Hall

My mom’s journey with Alzheimer’s was about 15 years. She was freed of the disease in September 2018 on the eve of hurricane Florence. My Mom, Joan Irene Hall, was always afraid of storms so my brothers, sister and I did not think it was ironic that she didn’t stick around for that storm that devastated Eastern NC.

When I reflect back on all of those years, I clearly remember a beginning, middle and end. This photo of my mom and her four children is close to the end and it reflects those rare and beautiful times of being in the moment. This is a picture of our mom given one of those rare moments to be present with her 4 grown children. Her in the middle, laughing and celebrating. I chose to keep these memories burned in my mind and heart forever.

The past 4-5 years of my mom’s life were not who she was but she was loved and cared for by so many. We are eternally grateful for the loving care she was given by her friends and care givers. Without them, her journey and ours would have looked very different.

Before mom passed away, she was hospitalized for a broken femur. Hurricane Florence was brewing in the Atlantic and leaving no prisoners. We live in a small town in Western NC and our hospital was asked to take in patients from down East. Mom was sedated but oddly very present with us all in the room. She nodded appropriately, smiled when we told her we loved her and on occasion answered questions that she’d not been able to answer for years. What a gift! We were asked to move her to a single room to make room for other incoming patients due to the storm. We happily agreed and that night mom was put in Hospice.

To witness the seamless transition from her incredible 2nd floor nurses to the hospice nurses was humbling. They were so wonderful to us all and close to midnight, before the storm hit the coast, mom left us as if to tell us there are others that need help more then her. She silently told us with no words “You are my children and I’ve had the pleasure to raise you, see you grow, get married and have children of your own. My life has been blessed and it is time for me to go”.

This pandemic has polarized many things for many people but on our small scale seeing the care givers and nurses who lovingly cared for our mom, reminded me they are the true gift to their patients and their families. They don’t question what they have to do and continue to do the job of 20 when no one else can. Thank you isn’t enough but it will have to do until a new word is invented to show endless gratitude.