One day, in October of 2001, my Mom was fine (for her, anyway) and then the next, my step-dad was taking her to the ER. She suddenly didn't know who he was. Actually, she knew she was married to him, but had no idea what his name was. For that matter, she couldn't even think of her own name.
I was at work when I received the call (I think it was my aunt) that Mom was in the hospital and that she had lost her memory, that they suspected she had a stroke. At the time they lived about an hour away, so I immediately called RL and told him what had happened, that I was on my way to see my Mom, and I didn't know when I'd be back.
When I got to the hospital, the nurses braced me for what might happen when I went in to see my Mom. They told me she had lost her memory and probably wouldn't know who I was. They told me to not let her get upset and just visit a little with her. I walked in the room and Mom sat up in the bed excited to see me; she knew me instantly and I wondered what all the fuss had been about. But soon I realized it was just as bad as they had said.
As we talked, Mom tried to explain what had happened, but couldn't think of words or names and soon shrugged and said, "I don't know how to say that." Then she decided it might be better to talk about what she did know. She knew her name was, "J . . . J . . . " she traced the letter J in the palm of her hand, " . . . J . . . Jesus. No, that's not it . . ." More tracing, then, "Judy!" She finally got it.
"And you're Phyllis," she said and I nodded. "And I have other children too . . ." She began to trace letters in the palm of her hand, again, and went through the names of my brothers. But she skipped one. I held back the tears, because she completely skipped naming my brother who had died when he was 16. But I didn't say anything, because I didn't want to upset her.
She looked up at me, with eyes that were so sincere, searching, and said, "But I have another child, too, don't I?" I nodded, the tears streaming freely now. "But he's not with us anymore." I told her he wasn't, but didn't say anything else. It seemed that she didn't really understand what that exactly meant, but didn't ask for explanation and I didn't offer.
Then she had to go to the bathroom. Afterwards, she came out to the sink in the room and began to wash her hands. She asked, "And what is this called?" I said,"You mean the sink?" She said, "No, what I'm doing. What is this called?" It amazed me that she knew to wash her hands after using the restroom, but she had know idea what the task was called.
She settled back into the hospital bed and we began to talk again about things she could remember. A lot of those things, though, took a little time to shake loose from her brain to her mouth. Then she said, "And I know how to . . . how to . . . how to . . ." Then she began to pray in a heavenly language that I had heard from her lips many, many times. There was no stuttering or stammering, she was fluent in her spiritual language. "I know how to do that!"
I said, "It's 'praying in the Spirit.'" She looked at me as though I had said something she had never heard of before. She tried, but couldn't even repeat the word prayer. Finally, she just shrugged it off. "Oh well! I don't know." Very calmly, almost laughing at herself. This was so unlike her. She had always been so critical of herself, so impatient, so easily frustrated. But now she was completely the opposite. My heart felt so much compassion for her, for probably the first time in my entire life.
As we talked, she suddenly forgot what she was saying. I tried to refresh her memory by reminding her of her last words, but she had no clue of what she had even been talking about. She threw up her hands, laughing, "I don't know. But I know Jesus. Jesus knows me. That's all that matters!"