Growing up, GaSara always had a beautiful tradition on Mother’s Day. Her mother, Callie, passed away in 1968, when I was just six years old. But I remember the holiday routine from even earlier.
We would always get dressed up special for church, a lot like on Easter. I hated wearing those fluffy dresses. My name may be Sissy, but I was never prissy. Despite my cries in protest, GaSara would insist. “And I don’t mean maybe!” she would exclaim.
She would always take a red or pink carnation for Grandma Callie to wear, and she would wear one as well. It was in honor of her mother and of all mothers, she told us.
But when Grandma Callie passed, the tradition changed. While GaSara would still get all three of us youngsters dressed up and to the church, she’d still wear that red carnation. But after church, we’d take white carnations to Grandma Callie’s grave. They were meant to remember her, GaSara told us, with the same love and honor that the red carnation had when she was living.
GaSara kept up that tradition every Mother’s Day until the tradition faded in her mind. Then I took over the mantle of honoring our mothers. Having reared me and my older brother and sister since we were two, three and five, GaSara was our mother in about every sense of the word.
Each Mother’s Day, over the five years I had the privilege of caring for GaSara, I bought those carnations. We only made it to church the first year. She looked so lovely in her pink pantsuit, donning that pretty red carnation. I comfortably wore pants, as well. After church, we went to the cemetery to take her mother her white bouquet and GaSara asked, “What are we doing here?
“Why are you leaving those (flowers) here?
“They need water! You’re just wasting them! Let’s take ‘em home!”
So, we did.
Mother’s Day was never the same after that. As GaSara’s disease progressed, nothing was much the same anymore, of course.
The last eight months of GaSara’s struggle was experienced in a local nursing home. We had run out of money and I had no choice but to place her there. I will die regretting that I had no choice. But that’s how the system still works.
I got a call around 9:00 am on May 5th, 1994. They told me to hurry. I was at her bedside 10 minutes later and she was gone. Finally, she was resting and at peace. It was something to celebrate. But my heart was full.
That evening was the opening of a 4-day production of “Cinderella,” with the local theatre group http://www.sumterplayers.org . I was the percussionist for the show and they didn’t have another one. I heard GaSara’s voice, as I still often do, saying, “You better do that show! They’re counting on you.”
So, the show went on. I played that night and through all four performances. I knew that’s what GaSara would want. It was great to be drumming again. Trying to get my life back on track.
I had pre-planned her funeral, so little was to be done but get the small family together for the home going. I had a bit of GaSara’s brain sent to Emory for research. That had long been planned as well. They later confirmed her diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease. I recommend this donation to other Caregivers. It’s a tremendous contribution to research.
As it happened, we celebrated GaSara’s freedom on Mother’s Day, May 8th, 1994, and laid her down for her final rest. I made sure there were white carnations there. The pall bearers were our classmates and we had a great roast, of sorts, remembering the GaSara that raised hell if we were 15 minutes late after band practice and rarely missed a football game or a concert. The woman who saw each of us work our way through college, largely because of her influence.
After the celebration, my sister, brother and father, came to the matinee closing of the show. It was an odd day, but a day I hope never to forget. I did my best to honor GaSara on that Mother’s Day.
Any holiday is difficult for Caregivers and persons with dementia. This Mother’s Day, I hope and pray is a good day for all of you. Pick the red, the pink or the white carnation and celebrate the life.
Happy Mother’s Day!