Mondays with Mom

Mondays with Mom: Eclipse

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Like most of America, I’ve been thinking a lot about all the talk of the total eclipse of the sun. I’ve learned so much about all the different parts of an eclipse and even went out in to Mom and Dad’s driveway to watch it occur. It was wonderful and beautiful, but the event felt poignant to me.

Mom’s spirit is being eclipsed by this disease. Incrementally, day by day, dementia is blocking more and more of who Mom is and was. Just like the moon was blocking the sun’s light from the earth, dementia is blocking Mom’s light from us.

I’m grateful for God’s timing in this celestial event. Our world seems so full of vitriol and anger, jealousy and pettiness. A collective – if too brief – respite where we can all agree that this world is full of wonder and amazement is much needed. Tuesday will probably bring strife again, but today on Monday, August 21, 2017, we’re all looking up – to the light.

Ironic, then, that we were actually looking to the heavens for the absence of light. The moon blocked the light of the sun, but I was amazed at how the light of the sun still glowed around the rim of the moon. There are many scientific names for the phenomena: the diamond ring effect, corona, Ring of Fire, and Bailey’s Beads. Even with total obstruction from the moon, the sun’s appearances causes us to create words of beautiful imagery.

I wish we had equally descriptive beautiful words for the later stages of dementia. For a disease as ugly and relentless as this, using “prettier” words wouldn’t change the effect, but it might change our perspective somewhat. Semantics matter.

According to the Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia (GDS), Mom is firmly mid-stage 6 (of seven levels), characterized by severe cognitive decline. Using the Functional Assessment Staging (FAST) assessment, she is also stage 6 (of seven levels), requiring assistance in all daily activities. The Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) is the most widely used assessment system used in dementia research. She is the last stage, CDR-3: severe.

Severe cognitive decline. Requires assistance in all daily activities. Severe. I like words like “diamond ring,” “corona,” and “beads” better. Each of these words I like describe how the light breaks through around the moon. I need words for when Mom’s spirit breaks through the disease and I see her as she was – her beautiful spirit shining through.

She’s still there. Who she was before the dementia started crossing her light is still within her, but her failing mind and body is eclipsing her essence.

After the totality of the solar eclipse today, we regained the light of the sun. Although it was dark as night for a bit, the sun crept out from behind the moon again. On this planet, I’ll not ever see Mom’s full brightness again. I know it is just a moment before her light will shine again in heaven, but right now the darkness can seem so total and final.

Once again, a long-anticipated occurrence has come and gone. Life is like that, isn’t it? As my favorite verse says, “And it came to pass….” The eclipse wouldn’t have been as exciting if it came around more often and stayed for longer. Sometimes the beauty is in the fleeting moment. Although this season with Mom seems to be long, I know that one day it will be gone.

In The Message translation, James 4:14B says it this way:

You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.

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