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heart-shaped memories

heart-shaped memories by Joan Berland

by guest, Joan Berland
January 15, 2015

As part of our caregiver’s circle, a few participants have been drawn to write about their caregiving experience. This essay was written by participant, Joan Berland, who wrote about her 90 year old mother, Jean, after hearing the news that she would now be under the care of hospice. This is a turning point for all who are caring for their loved ones; a very raw and poignant time. We are honored to share Joan's story with you. ~ Judy and Andrea

My journey as a caregiver began the day my 80 year old mother crashed into a parked vehicle and totaled her car. It also marked the end of her independence as she’d known it.

Ten years, two assisted living moves and finally a room on a special floor for dementia and Alzheimer’s residents later, I find myself someplace I’ve never been before. Not only am I aware of being on the precipice of her imminent death, but I also have a strong sense that she and I are standing in this unknown space together. 

In this place there is no history, only love. I don’t feel the painful mother-daughter tensions that plagued half of our lives together. What I feel is a love so tender and raw that it sometimes takes my breath away. Memories of specific moments clamber into my consciousness wanting to be recognized in writing and held close to my heart. These memories on paper somehow reveal a truth that honors our relationship for what it was, is and will be in the future because as my dear friend Andrea once said, “Love never ends”.

heartfelt memory #1

Today I put on the diamond heart-shaped necklace my mother bought me twelve years ago. Even though I haven’t thought about that day for a long time, I remember it so clearly in this moment. We were walking around the jewelry section of Fortunoff’s department store when the case with the heart-shaped pendants caught my eye. My mom came up beside me and quite unexpectedly said, “Pick out the one you want.” It wasn’t my birthday or any special occasion and the piece we both liked was over $500!

My mother did not come from money nor did she and my father make a lot of money. My mom has always been a tasteful but frugal shopper who bought clothes from Sak’s Fifth Avenue and Lord and Taylor only after they’d been marked down several times. She rarely spent more than she had and often lamented when she couldn’t buy me some frivolous vase or pair of shoes during a shopping trip. So why was that day in Fortunoff’s different? Why does a mother want to buy her grown daughter a piece of expensive jewelry “just because”? 

I don’t have an answer for those questions, just a beautiful memory of her and how much I loved our shopping days together. Did she know that I would always think of her when I wore it? Or was she hoping I’d begin to appreciate owning a diamond? I don’t know. I don’t need to know anything more than she loved me and making me happy made her happy.

About Joan

Joan BerlandJoan Berland lives in a 150 year old farmhouse near Rhinebeck, NY with her husband of 22 years. In addition to being a great traveler, for over three decades Joan was an elementary school teacher. Her experiences in the classroom lead her to pursue a deeper connection to life and to the dream of a new paradigm for human relatedness. It is this dream of a new paradigm that allows her to be so open and loving as her mother’s life comes to an end. 

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