It's strange, the things that go through our minds when we are suffering a life-altering, heartbreaking loss. When my Mom passed just three weeks ago, one of the first things I thought of was the coming issue of the AARP Bulletin with our photo on the cover and an excerpt of my book, AARP's Juggling Work and Caregiving. I knew it was to be a visual depiction of the love I feel for my mom and the care I was giving her. People who had seen it had told me it took their breath away and Mom looked beautiful. I'm so proud of both of my parents, and I had eagerly anticipated the moment I would see the cover and show it to her. Truthfully, in my heart that moment was more important to me than having my book published. Now that moment will never come. After she passed, the first time I saw the cover I was not prepared. I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably for an hour.
People like to tell me that even though she never got to see it, she "sees" it anyway - from heaven. I hope, in fact I believe, in some way that's true. But, honestly, it's small comfort to me right now. I can envision it all: the big smile that would have lit up her face (and our world); the calls she would have received from friends and family members; the special feeling we two would have shared to be on that cover together. She would have glowed with joy, and making her happy was one of my greatest joys. But imagining it - even feeling her presence - is just no substitute for the actuality of seeing and hearing her. It feels unfair. I feel robbed.
Intellectually, I know that I will increasingly focus more on the good memories, including the day the photo was taken - Mom was excited about that photo shoot and she worked so hard for that one perfect photo. It is also a comfort to know that Mom was so pleased that I had written a book about caregiving and especially that I shared some of our personal caregiving stories. She asked me daily about my progress and cheered me on through long nights of writing. She and Daddy joined me for a celebratory dinner when I completed the book. But right now, even though I am 52 years old, my heart just aches for my mommy.
I will always treasure the photos that the amazing Beth Perkins took of us during that week in September, just a few short weeks before Mom passed. I'm so glad Mom is honored in this way. My greatest hope is that the millions of people who will see our photo and read my book and our stories will be inspired by the love and care portrayed. you will also have the honor of caring for loved ones and will treasure every moment -- both the joys and the challenges - as I have and will continue to do for my dear Dad.