I have just left my mother in a nursing home on the other side of this country. As the plane carrying me back to Alberta scribed a straight line across the top of Lakes Huron and Superior, then angled slightly across Manitoba and Saskatchewan, her eyes haunted me. They are sunken because she has no appetite anymore. They are old because she is almost 87. And they are bewildered because she has Alzheimer's disease.
"There is something wrong with my brain," she told me the morning I went to say good-bye. I try to distract her by asking if she has seen any birds in the tree outside her window. She stares for several long minutes before she shrugs. She picks up my second book that I brought to show her, remembering her excitement over my first. "Is this yours?" she asks. When I say yes, she tries to give it back. "No, Mom, it's okay, I tell her, I brought it for you." She stares at the first page for half an hour, while my sister and I chat, our eyes often darting to her bowed head. It's been more than a year since she attempted to read anything.
I try to engage her in conversation again, tell her I'm leaving today, going home.
"Where am I living now?" She asks. When I tell her, she says she doesn't like it here. "But the care is good, I'll give you that, the care is very good here." She stops for a moment, then tries to continue, but she has lost the thread of the thought. She drops her head and stares at the open book in her hand. "Is this yours?" she asks.
Just as we leave, she says again, "There's something terribly wrong. I felt it at breakfast."
My sister says she will stop in again that night, but that does not seem to help. She opens her mouth but says nothing more as we move from the room.
I pray that she will hang on long enough to have a bit of a visit with my brother when he goes to see her in March, and my daughter, when she arrives in May. But I'm not sure that prayer will be answered. Some day soon, another prayer will be - some day soon she will wake with complete understanding and the twinkle that has always been in her eyes will become a beacon of light, reflecting the light of her Saviour. Perhaps that is the prayer I should whisper now, as her eyes continue to haunt me.