Dementia and Birthdays, Disengagement and Hope

I have not posted lately. I haven’t felt like writing. I’ve felt a bit more like playing and Candy Crush. Just not engaging completely. We all have our seasons, right? We all have our moments where we sit on the porch and read through books while sipping our coffee, and we all have our seasons of just making it through.


This season started with a coffee mug.


I walked through the Starbucks in a bookstore and it caught my eye. Immediately I was reminded of my mom sipping her coffee, wearing a bathrobe and slippers and making her list of things to do that day. Mom was a woman of lists and coffee. Strong, dark and extremely hot.


I bought the mug. It was like physically holding  on to a memory. A tangible reminder of the strength of presence this woman held.


Then the disengaging happened a bit. Because she is not that woman any longer. Her words no longer form sentences, her eyes are not piercing or twinkling with laughter. Her voice is not strong, sometimes filling with song. And that is terribly difficult to settle with: we have her, and yet we do not.


And I miss her. So there are seasons of disengaging with some of reality so that all of my reality does not suffer. The season of truly mourning the loss of my mother has not come in full force. Instead it is this long-distance endurance mourning as we watch her slowly leave us in Dementia. A mourning in moments that does not leave any healing yet.


There is more around me, though, than coffee mugs which hold memories.



That is my White Rabbit about to jump through the rabbit hole. He and his friends brought us a fantastic performance, filling us with laughter and pride. Such talented kids. Such good friends.


This brings back my engagement. Seeing these kids delighting in their talents and enjoying their moment. Fully engaged as I see his enthusiasm and joy overflow in the company of his friends. He shines when he is around people, his compassion and genuine love of people so prominent.



This is a ten year old boy, sporting his “Player of the Year” hoodie. I have in the past posted birthday posts on each child’s birthday. That didn’t happen in this season of disengagement. But this boy…he celebrated with friends and ate cake and laughed heartily. Inching closer to being more man than boy, he shines with hope and enthusiasm.

A few days ago he tried out for a select team. It was 85+ degrees of Tennessee humidity, complete with mosquitos and an ant covered soccer field. The boy just hadn’t seen these temperatures or this level of activity since last summer. Wind sprints and laps. He couldn’t catch his breath and the tears were on the brink. I sent him back in.

“Finish as well as you can and you will be proud of yourself. Just don’t quit.”

He finished. He finished well and was a sweaty mess of tiredness, with just a touch more confidence. Bringing my engagement more focus as I feel the pride in seeing who he is becoming.



This is a fifteen year old man-child. I am somewhat staggered that he is a year away from driving on his own, three years away from leaving for college. A blink of an eye.

We are celebrating him tonight and that means meat. Lots of meat.


He asked for Philly Steak sandwiches, and I realize these probably bear little resemblance to those from Philadelphia. These are my Mom’s take on the sandwich, and I remember them being a rare treat. Strips of steak seared in butter with Worcestershire sauce with onions, on toasted bread with Philadelphia cream cheese. I really don’t care if they are authentic…they are authentically my Mom’s. And the boy loves them.


He is in that strange between land of childhood and manhood. He is young enough to laugh at utter silliness, young enough and wise enough to admit his vulnerabilities. He is old enough to feel the weight of responsibilities and the future. He is young enough to still love Tres Leche cake for his birthday.



He is becoming his own. And I am humbled and thankful for the man who glimpses at us through the laughter and the silliness, through the shyness and uncertainty. Glimpses of confidence and easy humor. Glimpses of strength and wisdom. Pulling me back in to engagement.


I’m going to go head out to the porch to read. I’ve had my moment of feeling the impact of Mom’s Dementia. We have to take these moments…to allow ourselves the space to reel a little and then for the moments of hope and encouragement and life to pull us back.  The weight of our sorrow can sometimes blind us. We need to allow space for sorrow, but not allow it dominion. These moments of White Rabbits and soccer hoodies, of boys becoming men (and I haven’t forgotten the little Princess…her day is coming and I’ll be back to writing blog posts for her), these bring us back to life.

“ . . some moment happens in your life that you say yes right up to the roots of your hair, that makes it worth having been born just to have happen. laughing with somebody till the tears run down your cheeks. waking up to the first snow. being in bed with somebody you love… whether you thank God for such a moment or thank your lucky stars, it is a moment that is trying to open up your whole life. If you turn your back on such a moment and hurry along to business as usual, it may lose you the ball game. if you throw your arms around such a moment and hug it like crazy, it may save your soul.” – Buechner




2 thoughts on “Dementia and Birthdays, Disengagement and Hope

  1. Anonymous says:

    beautiful writing Sarah… your feeling about your mom are so valid… good to write it all down and recognize the awesomeness of your present engagements….. you have lovely family.. Praises
    to God.


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