Friday, April 17, 2015

The Pearl Necklace

It was a simple strand of pearls. Not even quality pearls—rather pop beads left over from the 60’s. But it was perfect in one respect: it gave dignity as it daily graced the neck of my 94 year old mother with Alzheimer’s. She might have chosen two overlapping mismatched shirts and ill-fitting pants that day but the pearls gave poise to an otherwise chaotic appearance.  They became her signature “style”.

It is how I choose to remember her, sitting by the window in her wheel chair, waiting for me to arrive for my usual morning visit to the nearby Memory Care facility. Her greeting was often joyful, accompanied by a shout of “Over here!” along with hand clapping, to be sure that she had gotten my attention. Her memory of breakfast might be diminished but she knew I was her favorite (and only) close relative. She was in some ways a child again, clearly remembering places and people long past. An obvious clue was her repeated introductions of me to the staff, asking them if they had met me, her “mother”. It was a regular reminder of the fact that as a life spirals down, the circle of that life grows smaller and smaller.

While her mental capacity was shrinking, her heart’s capacity to love grew surprisingly larger. Expressing appreciation and love to all her caregivers became another kind of signature “style” and gave an element of delight to her final days.  Those simple pearls serve as a reminder of a sweet mother and are, symbolically, pearls of great price.

© Jeanne Beckman 3/2015


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