Our daughter, L, has wanted to be a doctor since at least grade school. Her road to medical school was not an easy one, but she made it. Her white coat ceremony should have been a day of unalloyed joy for her and me — and J.
It was a wonderful day and I am so, so proud of our daughter, but J wasn’t there.
Eight years into our struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, there is no doubt that was the right call. J couldn’t have sat through the 45-minute ceremony, or understood what was going on. (For those who aren’t familiar, a white coat ceremony happens early in the first year of medical school. The students receive the white coats they will wear throughout their training and are socialized about the importance of patient-centric care.) J could not have expressed her pride and joy, or chatted with L’s new colleagues and their parents.
Losing the person who was is very hard.
When someone in my life dies, I always have that realization that the world is going on without her; that she doesn’t know the ways the world and those in it are changing. The same is true of J. She doesn’t really know what’s going on in the world (although she does say, “Trump!” with a disapproving look on her face if others are discussing politics); nor does she know what’s happening in my life or the lives of our children.
The only consolation is that J has a new life, too. I’m told she attends the daily morning meeting at the memory care unit where she lives and thinks she’s one of the paid caregivers. Her photo hangs in the hall under the label, “Most Caring.”
And J’s lack of consciousness about the changes in her loved ones and the world is a blessing because she doesn’t feel the loss we feel.