My grandmother died when I was in high school. I didn’t really get the chance to know her, who she was, what it was like to be with her, outside of the nursing home. I remember when I was really young, she could sing Christmas carols with us. But really, my grandmother didn’t know me, her daughters, her husband anymore. She was diagnosed with dementia in her 50’s. I’m now in my 40’s and am realizing just how young she was.
My husband’s grandmother is now in a care facility with dementia. She is still functioning pretty well with her communication and mobility. The decline has been slow and gentle. I am so thankful that my husband and his family have had a full and rich life with her. I wish I had known my grandmother in the same way.
We also have a friend who lost her husband this past year, also diagnosed with dementia. He was young, in his 50’s. And we have another friend who cared for his mother at home as long as he and his wife were able before having to place her in a care facility.
Watching someone lose the very personality that has defined her life is tragic. The mind becomes so tangled, playing tricks, hiding memories, losing connections in the brain. I watch how my family and friends’ have and are handling their loved ones’ decline and am in awe by the raw power of unconditional love and honor.
So when I am in my studio, these deep things well up in me and pour out of my mind into my hands. From the stories, the memories, the sorrow, a new encaustic jewelry series erupted yesterday: Tangled, pendants made in honor of all those affected by dementia.
I now have a pile of these pendants-in-the-making on my workbench. The pile will grow until my mind has poured out the grief.