Hope…like a Butterfly

Hope departed when she died.  I often talk about it being the second time she left me…without saying good-bye.

Throughout her illness, I held out the hope that she might remember.  She rarely did.  Like a butterfly struggling to break free from its cocoon, her memories darted in and out of the sunlight, fought against the darkness of every night, and me.

Still, there was always that chance she might turn her head and recognize that I was part of her life.  Or had been, once.

It was overwhelming, at times a helpless feeling, as I stood  in the shadows of that familiar stranger wanting to become the missing piece of her puzzle of forgetfulness.  A puzzle left scattered, never to be completed.

Hope, for me, departed on June 29th, 2006, on the wings of a butterfly who never looked back, taking with it many desires and needs and dreams.  While hope can carry on its back an entire soul, lifting up sorrow and bringing back joy, it also takes many forms, depending on your perspective; wildly positive or very reserved, almost cautious. Most of us hope for better days, health, happiness or just some release of a heavy burden.  For me, it was the hope that my late mother would remember something beyond the walls of what Alzheimer’s allowed.  I kept hoping she would remember…me.  


When she passed away, that hope went along with her.   




  1. I am so very sorry for your loss. I’m sure it’s never easy, even after 6 years.
    I have been in this place with my grandmother, and when I read your words “Still, there was always that chance she might turn her head and recognize that I was part of her life. Or had been, once.” it brought back all of the pain and of course that familiar feeling of fleeting hope. Especially the last thought “Or had been, once.”. It’s so final and defeated, which is exactly how I felt at the end.

    You had some great lines in here, and I thought it was very powerful.

    • Patty says:

      In some ways, I said good-bye to a stranger who just happened to look like my mother. The connection between us was one-sided and I had become nothing more than an observer in her life. Maybe it made things easier to deal with the sadness. So many other caregivers have shared these same feelings with me in recent years.

      Thank you Dawn!

  2. May says:

    Like a butterfly struggling to break free from its cocoon, her memories darted in and out of the sunlight and fought against night’s darkness. And me.

    This imagery is both poetic and powerful. It left me deeply moved. The puzzle may have remained scattered to a degree, but I feel certain that your tremendous strength and depth of character kept things much more together than they might have been.

    • Patty says:

      Trust me, May, there were times that I was like dust in the wind of my mother’s illness. It took a while but I put myself behind my own walls while she lived in her own Neverland of Alzheimer’s.

      My goal now, in my own life, is to glue the puzzle of me together and frame it, just to keep it from falling apart.

  3. Jester Queen says:

    Alzheimer’s steals so much, but the worst of its thefts is family. You become an orphan in Alzheimer’s, and your children become orphans as well, caring for a stranger who used to be a loved one, whose body still seems to belong to that person. I read your butterfly post, too. They are both so sad. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • Patty says:

      How true, Jessie. How painfully true. In so many ways, I was an orphan growing up but I dug my heels in and knew that someday, I would escape and make my own way. My mother drifted in and out of my life, as she needed me, until the day she passed.

  4. This is such a powerfully touching piece. Thank you for being so honest.

    • Patty says:

      Thank you, Heidi. Honesty has been the basis of my book, something to leave behind for my children, something that I hope will help other caregivers.

      I appreciate you stopping-by!

  5. The Real Cie says:

    My father’s dementia was vascular rather than Alzheimer’s. He still recognized his family members at the point when he died, but he was like a very big three year old. He had started sundowning and at night had a tendency to become afraid and sometimes mean.
    It’s difficult and frightening to watch these cognitive changes take place. I work in a retirement community. Some folks’ cognition becomes extremely deteriorated. I feel sad for their family members, watching this kind of decline.

    • Patty says:

      Lately, I’ve been seeing a drastic change in several clients from the salon where I work; ladies I’ve known for several years who come in for their appointments and can’t remember my name or even what day it is. Sadder still are their families who have that same look of frustration on their faces that was mine during my mother’s battle with dementia. The nightly restlessness, attempted escapes from our home and yes, the nastiness. Alzheimer’s took much of what was my mother away but left the angry part of her personality that I’d always known. That’s the most heartbreaking part of it all. Physicians tend to prescribe anything and everything which, in so many cases, worsens the behaviors of someone with dementia and leaves the caregivers feeling totally helpless. And that helplessness doesn’t up and disappear once a loved one passes.

      Thank you for your comment!

  6. –So very sorry for your deep loss.

    After losing our great loves, we can never truly be the same as before. Xx

    • Patty says:

      How true! Those holes deep in our heart never really heal and we’re often left wondering what we’d do, or say, if given another chance.

      Thank you!

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