My beautiful mother, Linda Webb, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease eight years ago at the age of 72, though she'd shown signs of memory loss earlier than that. She now needs total care and lives in a skilled nursing facility in Huntersville filled with wonderfully loving and dedicated staff.
A mother of seven children, Mom dedicated her life to serving her family, God, church and neighbors. She was known for picking up "strays" - people in need in the neighborhood who she would bring home for chocolate chip cookies and motherly love. She was the kind of mother who was always learning. She posted Latin words by the front door just knowing her kids would enjoy learning them as much as she did. I guess that's what comes from having a mother who was valedictorian of her high school and college classes. We think of her when we see interesting leaves, because Mom knew every tree and where they were in town. She was the reason each of us seven kids got A+ grades on our leaf collection projects in school. Mom and the fascinating Gingko biloba tree in the Jewish cemetery in Statesville are intertwined in my memory.
I speak of her above in past tense, and that makes me feel both sorrow and guilt. She hasn't died, but years ago we had to say goodbye to the person she used to be and love her for the child-like, sweet soul she is now. The last time she said my name was about five years ago when she was sitting beside me at Outback Steakhouse during one of her last family outings. I heard her say, "I wonder if Cheryl wants her last piece of steak" as she reached with her fork, skewered it, and then ate it. I laughed so hard, until she took my Coke Zero. That was crossing the line.
I'm now a hospice nurse and caring for other people's parents, some of them with Alzheimer's. And the HPCCR Lake Norman Palliative team is caring for her. When Mom had COVID-19 in January, the amazing HPCCR Lake Norman nurse assigned to Mom's facility called me with daily updates. Mom wasn't her patient, but she knew her and visited her other patients in the COVID unit there and would pop in to see how Mom was. Tears brim in my eyes in gratitude for that love. My experience with my own mother has made me into a more compassionate and patient nurse for my own patients and their families. I'm truly grateful for that. Another gift from Mom.