One of the greatest love stories of my life, is the love I share with my dear mom, Marion Monk. This is a photo of us together during one of her last visits here before she was unable to travel anymore due to her decline with Alzheimer’s disease. One of the things I have always loved about spending time with my mom is how much we laugh together. For example, I came out to the kitchen wearing these full body cow pyjamas and my mom laughed and laughed, asking me “Where did you get that crazy outfit?” You might be able to see the heart on these PJ’s that reads “I Love Moo.” I told her after 15 years of marriage, I got them as my version of lingerie. We laughed some more.
I am holding my mom close in my heart right now. I will be flying across the country this week to be part of her palliative care along with the devoted care home staff, my brother, Jeff, our cousin, Laurie and others in her small and loving circle of care. Sadly, she is on her end of life journey with decline from Alzheimer’s, and more recently with cancer, and as of two weeks ago, she also has Covid. This is a heartbreaking and also inevitable time.
I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on the wonderful life we have shared together as mother and daughter. It could have been otherwise. I was adopted into my family when I was 5 months old. I was born to another mother, who I also love and have shared many years with. My mom has loved me as her own my entire life. I have never been able to imagine my life without her in it, and now that is what I must do. That is what we all do when we lose the one’s most precious to us.
We also never really have to live without them, because love is timeless and without end. I know my mom will soon leave this physical world, and I also know, I will always have her with me. As I write in my journal these days it is filling with many stories and memories and deep gratitude for the love I share with my mom.
I was thinking about how the IAJW is celebrating it’s 4th anniversary, and it has also been 4 years since my father died of Alzheimer’s disease, and 4 years since my mom was diagnosed with this same unmerciful disease. There have been times when I wondered if I would have enough to give to the IAJW, while supporting my parents, raising our two sons, and also tending to my business (http://lyndamonk.com) which has been central in my life and work for many years.
I remember sharing with my mom about the opportunity to take over the leadership of the IAJW and sharing with her some of my excitement and also my ambivalence about whether I could do it or not. Her response to me was, “You have always loved journaling.” She said, “I still remember that little pink journal you had with the key that you would write in at your desk in your bedroom.” She went on to say, “you were always writing away in your room.” That was all she had to say about it. It was enough. My mom was saying what I already knew in my heart, I was born for this.
As I support my mom’s end of life, I am thinking of the thread of passions that has always run through my own life – journaling and writing have consistently been among them. I often wanted my mom to keep a journal, I gifted her many of them. She wrote down lots of lists, but she kept her feelings close and quietly held within. She still does. Just last week, when I was with her on one of our regular Zoom times together facilitated by one of the amazing care home staff, Maria, I asked my mom as I always do, “How are you feeling, Mom?”
Her response, the same one I have heard her say all my life, no matter her circumstances, “Me, I’m fine.” I thought to myself, Mom, you have Alzheimer’s, cancer, Covid and you are dying, you are not exactly fine. And then I thought, who I am to break it to her… after all, what is wrong with being fine your entire life, even when you’re not. Those would have been the words that would have appeared in her journal over and over again, “Today, I’m fine.”
My mom has taught me many, many things, one of which, is that still waters run deep. So does love.
While my mom can’t celebrate the growth of the IAJW and this amazing community of journal writers worldwide that we are becoming, her belief in me and her memories, albeit lost now, of me writing in my journal as a young girl in my bedroom in my childhood home, are enough to remind me I am on the right path.
Thank you to everyone here, every IAJW member, every Museletter reader, and to my dear mom, for being part of the journey. I am deeply grateful.
By Lynda Monk, Director, IAJW.org