Lily Tessa




Archer Leo

Losing her to dementia - 12 months on

it's been twelve months to the day since we lost you.

but dementia stripped you from us long before that.

Today I've been remembering.

I've been thinking lately about the last time I was with you. Christmas day. I arrived and I don't know what I was expecting but not the sight in front of me. Gloomy and depressing as it was. Sparkly garish Christmas tinsel hung limply from the ceiling in the old peoples home and old black and white films played quietly (too quietly to be heard) on repeat on the too small television on the wall. Apart from the tinsel there was no other signs that it was Christmas at all. The room was empty asides from yourself and two other ladies and I wondered briefly where the other residents were. Had they gone to bed already? it was getting late. Or had families come and whisked them away for the day, what with it being Christmas and all? In fact were they even allowed to do that? I'd wished suddenly and fiercely that we could have done that for you. Taken you away from the stifling room with its funny smell and mockingly un-Christmas feel. 

You always loved Christmas grandma- the food, the drink, sitting in your armchair watching us play quiz games on the floor and smiling along, even though I wasn't 100% sure you knew what was going on most of the time, you were just happy to be surrounded by us all. Oh how I wish we could have given you one last Christmas like that.

The two other ladies sat in the family room at the home, they looked a bit younger than you, although not by much I would've guessed. They were full of enthusiasm for the day and they told me about families of their own who had been to visit earlier. I remember that the fact that they both seemed so.. together, put in to sharp focus just how un-together you were right then. They told me tales about their sons and daughters (one of them had six great grandchildren apparently) and how nice the Christmas dinner they'd eaten had been. They also told me that you hadn't touched yours and I turned to you and asked why? You're always such a big fan of Christmas dinner grandma. You didn't reply for a minute before you looked and me and vacantly said Yes. it was lovely. I wondered whether you meant the Christmas dinners you used to have, made by dad or yourself, or whether you meant the one today but it was too late to ask - you were already staring off into space again, thinking about something else.

The visit continued on in the same vein for a while. You weren't saying a word grandma and the two chatty residents were filling the silence. They were quite the double act, in a hanging the washing out, gossiping over the fence sort of a way.They made me smile and I sometimes wonder where they are now.

Whenever I came to visit you there would always be a resident who would talk my ear off. I would wonder if these individuals rarely had visitors and so jumped at the chance of a fresh face to listen, but I would also wonder if they thought they were being helpful to me, filling in the silences between you and me. But what no-one seemed to understand was that I liked sitting in silence with you grandma. I had no desire to keep you talking in the way in which the nurses would tell us to. I don't know if it's weird but I found the silence comforting. It was nice and felt like something we shared.

It was what happened next that made this particular visit different. Special. 

I went to the toilet and when I returned you patted the seat next you. The one I had previously been sitting on. It might not seem a big deal to many, especially to those with little experience of dementia, but you hadn't given me any sign of recognition in so many months that this really was something. You remembered I'd been sitting there. By patting the seat you were asking me to sit next to you and my heart grew.

You sat in silence still and I continued listening to the two ladies stories, who were sat on the other side of you. They were asking me questions and I was answering, telling them stories of my own family and all the while I could feel you staring at me funnily. Really intensely. 

You weren't taking your eyes off me.

Okay grandma? I asked and that's when it happened. You looked at me and you held out your hand for me to take and you squeezed it so tightly. You still didn't say a word but you didn't let go of my hand for the rest of my visit. Not even for a second.

And when I kissed you on the cheek goodbye, you gave my hand one final squeeze and I'll never forget it. You remembered me then. On that day. That dark and cold Christmas evening. I've never been so sure. You remembered, and it meant the world.

and that was the last time I ever saw you.

I'll always have that memory, and I'm so grateful for it. To have a nice last memory of a loved one who is suffering is so rare, I know. But I also have a billion more memories before that. Before the dementia and all the rest of it. Just of you.

It's been twelve months and despite so much happening in such a short time we all still think of you all the time. You've inspired me in so many ways. I just wish I had the chance to tell you how much. I hope somehow, in some way, you already knew. 

All my love. Today and always.
Your grandaughter. x

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  1. Oh bloody hell - crying at my desk!! This is the most beautiful tribute. x

  2. Oh my goodness, this is so beautiful. I am so sorry for your loss, 12 month seems like such as long time and no time at all when it comes to losing a loved one doesn't it. I am so glad that you had that finally gift from your grandma.

  3. Dementia is so hard, and you are right it is just like losing someone twice. I can understand the comfort of sitting in silence, I have never been one to make people talk when they don't want to and I suspect that if I had an awareness that I had Dementia I wouldn't want to risk talking either for fear of saying the wrong thing.
    I'm sorry for your loss

  4. Such a touching tribute and lovely words. I remember seeing my Grandma for the last time in her nursing home. She too was suffering with dementia of some kind - she didn't know who we all were and it was so difficult to see. I wish i could turn back the clock as my Gran was like a second mom to me and as soon as she fell ill, i felt like id lost her.

  5. This is so beautiful. I lost my Grandpa to dementia and I hated seeing him so poorly and lost. He was an amazing Mathematician and kept that part of him with him until the end xx

  6. Oh this has had me in tears. I've never had anyone close to me suffer, but my own Nan tells tails of her mother falling victim to it and those stories haunt me. It must be so hard and I can't imagine. But how lovely that she did remember you that day, it's a bittersweet memory you can hold onto xxx

  7. Wow this made me cry. I'm so glad you had this moment with her. Dementia is such a terrible thing my mum lost her sister last year to it x

  8. The most beautiful line is 'even though I wasn't 100% sure you knew what was going on most of the time, you were just happy to be surrounded by us all'. I think company and warmth of family is so important and so sad lots of people don't have it either through illness or loneliness x