I attended the funeral of a 26 year old young man today who took his own life. His mom works in our school cafeteria, and my heart breaks for her. I wanted to attend the funeral to support his mom, and I had no qualms about it until I was driving there, and my heart started beating harder, and my breathing got faster. That's when I realized that I was afraid that attending this funeral would bring a flood of memories about my son's funeral almost four years ago. It was impossible to suppress those memories, but they were memories of Andrew's memorial service which was a celebration of his life...good memories, funny stories, and the reality that Andrew had addictions.
This blog is about Billy and Alzheimer's Disease, and you may wonder why I am writing about this. The trauma of Andrew's death took a toll on all of us who loved Andrew, and I believe the trauma that Billy suffered accelerated this disease. The pain of losing a child is like no other. I will always have a hole in my heart, and if I give myself permission, the pain I feel is physical, emotional, and spiritual. Billy felt all of those, and with dementia setting in, he had to deal with it differently. When I think of all he went through at that time, it's amazing Billy isn't worse. He was between jobs, he drove 3 hours roundtrip two to three times a week to feed his mom supper in a nursing home because she could not feed herself, my brother was very ill with cancer, and two weeks after Andrew died, Billy and his sisters put his mom on hospice care. His memory worsened, and his confusion became more prevalent. I remember one day when he called from the Stockyards, and he didn't know where he had parked his truck. He actually did remember, but he parked illegally, and his truck was towed. He couldn't catch a break. When he saw his neurologist, I shared the trauma he had experienced, and I remember the doctor saying that there was no scientific evidence that trauma accelerated this disease, but our experience certainly tells us differently.
Sometimes I worry that Billy has forgotten Andrew, and sometimes I worry that he has not forgotten his death. I don't know what is worse, but I do know that I have no control over it, and neither does Billy. Just another very frustrating truth about this disease.