My Grandma Rose had Alzheimer’s disease. As she grew worse, she required live-in nursing care. It was heartbreaking. She always asked the same questions over and over, like what day it was or whether or not she’d had her breakfast. We’d repeat our answers again and again. Grandma Rose never failed to ask about her grandkids. I was amazed at how Mom and my uncles repeated the same answers without ever getting impatient. They understood that despite her deteriorating mind, Grandma Rose loved her grandchildren and wanted to stay close to us.
Then, tragedy struck. My sister Maureen died in a car accident. She was only 23. We were devastated. Mom especially. The day of the funeral, the whole family gathered—except Grandma Rose. After much deliberation, our family decided it would be best not to frighten Grandma with the terrible news. She wouldn’t be able to retain it anyway, and the idea of repeating it was unbearable. Everyone swore not to say a word. But Mom struggled with her decision. She planned to visit Grandma Rose soon and dreaded the familiar litany of questions. “What will I say when she asks about Maureen?” Mom asked me. I didn’t know what to tell her.
The afternoon after Mom visited Grandma, she called me. There was a long pause, then she said, “It’s a miracle.” When she’d visited Grandma, she’d struggled to keep a happy face and pretend everything was fine. But sure enough, Grandma wanted to know how everyone was. “How’s Elise?” Grandma asked.
“She’s married to Steve,” my mom said. “They live near Philadelphia.”
“Doing well, Mom. Still living in Atlanta.” Mom began to tear up, bracing herself for Grandma’s next question. But instead, Grandma Rose paused. Then, with a strong voice, more alert than she’d been in years, she said, “Dear, Maureen needs you to stop crying. She’s in a happier place now, except that she’s worried about all of you. Maureen loves you so much. Please let her go.”