“Mom’s Journal,” Liahona, Sept. 2008, 29–30
Mother had been living with me for almost five years. In love and gratitude I was glad I could care for her just as she had cared for me for so many years. But I missed her smiles and humorous comments. I longed to have her experience again the joy and excitement she had once felt when she went on rides with me. It hadn’t really mattered where we went. Mother never missed pointing out the flowers, the birds on the telephone wires, or the children playing.
I missed the companionship we had enjoyed as we peeled potatoes, snapped beans, or read together. I longed to share childhood experiences with her and tell her news about my siblings and her grandchildren. She had always enjoyed family dropping by, especially the grandchildren. But now her dementia had changed things. She really wasn’t sure anymore who I was, other than someone special who cared for her.
It had been a particularly difficult day with Mother. She gave me the usual blank stares when I tried to make conversation and distrustful looks when I tried to assist her. I was exhausted and frustrated as I sat down on the couch to think. I began to read aloud one of Mother’s journals in hopes that she might be entertained by it and perhaps remember a little. My efforts proved futile, but as I continued to read to myself, the memories surfaced in me.
In those pages Mother repeatedly expressed the joy she had felt when her family would visit and the void she had felt when they left. She wrote of how hard it had been for her when my father became ill and, after a long struggle, had left her a widow at the age of 59. She wrote of how she missed Father and of how she worried about my older brother, who was stricken with the same disease.
Mother wrote of happy, fulfilling experiences like teaching Church classes and participating in single adult activities. She wrote of the satisfaction she had received in going to Dilkon, Arizona, to teach the gospel once a week on the Navajo Indian reservation. This brought to my mind how she had always emphasized the importance of being dependable when someone was counting on you. Sometimes her entries were short because she had been helping someone; they reminded me of how she often took food or gifts to anyone she thought needed help or cheer. Many times in her entries she bore her testimony of the gospel.
I was especially touched by how she expressed the sorrow and worry she had felt when my daughter was born with Down syndrome and associated problems. Had she really spent almost a whole month feeding and caring for our other children as my husband and I went back and forth to the hospital while Debra Sue underwent open-heart surgery and related complications? Yes! And she had done it at age 70!
I remembered how she had always been there for me when I needed her. Through the years I learned that if she could not be with me in person, her faithful letters and prayers would sustain me.
That night, as I sang hymns to Mother to calm her to sleep, I had an overwhelming surge of love for my brave, always-sacrificing mother and deep gratitude for the words of her journal that had brought her back to me.