Cecy: Lost and Found
My mother Cecy has been gone for two months now and what a ride it’s been.
I think all of us who have lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s disease must experience a very similar grieving process. Ours is a unique situation.
I wish I had the wings
To dive suddenly
Low and daring
Into the sea of grief
Sky blue solid
Prey in hand
When Cecy became ill, I followed the sage advice of Joanne Koenig Coste, author of Learning To Speak Alzheimer’s, and decided to step into Mom’s new reality and not attempt to pull her back into mine.
Learning this lesson early helped Mom and me to live each day fully, and in the present…there was no before or after, but just the moment at hand to consider.
This led to a peaceful, respectful communication that I am very grateful to have experienced. I learned a great deal about myself and about living by simply being with Cecy and listening in a new way.
I rarely, if ever, found myself going back in time, imagining Mom the way she had been before her twelve-year journey into Alzheimer’s disease.
As a long-distance caregiver, there was no point. There was too much in the present to contend with.
Part of me was continually focused on Cecy, who lived in Maine, as I lived my daily life here in Los Angeles, where I work as an actress. Although I was far away, I never disconnected from the beautiful communication we had established. She was always on my mind.
Now that she is gone, I am flooded with memories of the mother I knew before the diagnosis…the spectacular, larger than life figure that my brothers and I referred to as “The Great Momoo.” She played a mythic role in my personal journey and I am overwhelmed by the loss of her.
A silhouette not as tall
Not as stately
Of slighter frame.
Not as sharp
Not as Irish
Of subtler nature.
Not as quick
Not as wicked
Of hesitant word.
Not as glowing
Of humbler grain.
No less poignant
Of gargantuan proportion.
Cecy used to say, “Don’t court trouble.” Perhaps this is why I steadfastly moved forward each day without looking back. It would have been futile to pine for what Mom could no longer be at a time when she was still here…still my mother and still in need of a daughter.
I became closer to this new Cecy on a deep, spiritual level. We were comrades-in-arms and remained connected to each other against the odds. We were very fortunate.
It almost seems that I am grieving the loss of two separate people…the mother who cared for me as a child and became my great friend, and the mother I’ve tried to care for these past twelve years who has taught me courage, tenacity, and patience by her tremendous example.
I think it is more accurate to say that I am mourning the loss of one person, Cecy, who lived to be seventy-five years old. Yes, one mother, and yet the loss of two lifetimes of experience.
There was the experience of having been known to her as her daughter, and also the experience of having been recognized as simply someone she loved and enjoyed spending time with.
The end result of my attempt to unite these two worlds in a cohesive manner through the process of grief has been exhaustion.
Mother, I’m tired.
I’ve tried to bury you,
Resurrect you, rediscover you.
I am in a magic disappearing booth
Waiting for the trick to end.
What kind of magician
Would allow me
To step out of the booth
Into a world
Devoid of you?
This grieving process, unique, perhaps, to those of us who have lost someone to Alzheimer’s, leaves us deeply tired and overwhelmed.
Suddenly, with Mom’s death, the treadmill I have been running on for so many years has come to an abrupt halt, hurling me to the ground, breathless.
I can no longer run as fast as I can to make everything okay for Mom and myself. I must stop and look at my life with rested eyes. It is time for me to live my life in the moment…a tall order for a caregiver.
I have always loved my work as an actress because it demands that I be in the moment and present at all times in order to give a believable performance. I’ve been able to live in the moment for Cecy and for my work…but for myself alone? We’ll see.
As for Mom, I see her in a giant crow that visits me from time to time in various places. She looks strong, wise, elegant…and unmistakably free.
I am encouraged to take the time to rest, regroup, and fly free again, as she has. I will carry her strong spirit with me without looking back.
Check out Judy Prescott's book, Searching for Cecy: Reflection on Alzheimer's. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of book goes to the Alzheimer's Association, Maine Chapter.
Judy Prescott, born in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, has spent the past twenty-five years working as a professional actress. Based in both New York City and Los Angeles, she has performed many roles on stage and screen. Her most recent work includes episodes of True Blood, Grey’s Anatomy, Cold Case, Bones, and the films Islander and Hit and Runway. Judy started writing poems as a child in order to better understand the world around her. She began reading her poetry publicly fifteen years ago in Los Angeles where she currently lives with her husband and daughter. Judy is the author of Searching for Cecy: Reflections on Alzheimer’s.