This is the face of a fighter. Not one who swings punches or gets in the ring. One who has the kind of inner strength you hope for in dark times, a resilience that never fails.
Aged 90, she has battled Alzheimers now for a decade, and it’s not just a physical battle where the body degenerates, but it is – of course – a mental battle. Beyond struggling for words, forgetting birthdays, imagining missing children… thoughts become jumbled fragments and your family are strangers.
Illness does not discriminate. The sadness, anger and frustration lingers, that this could happen and there’s no way to stop it. That to some she is a number and not a person. What is the hardest is when people think she’s stopped existing. She is still a human being full of love and gratitude. She may not recognise those she was once close to, but that doesn’t mean the effort shouldn’t be made to see her, to talk to her, and to try and make her day better.
My Nana wakes up every day with the determination to keep fighting. She is a true warrior who does not see a future with a disease – she sees a life despite it. She has faced it head on and refuses to let it dominate her. She still holds on to her soul, the very essence of who she is, and that has meant everything to me. She still smiles, she hums fragments of songs, her eyes light up when she hears one of our voices. Her mischievous laugh lifts my spirit and makes the bad days worthwhile.
She would always give us anything, whatever we needed, even if it meant she had to go without. And even now that is who she is. She does not know who I am but still tells me ‘alright my love’ and that I am ‘a nice child’. How does a person who is supposed to have forgotten everything still remember how to be kind?
I was scared, when she was diagnosed. The future flashed before me, the unknown, but the all too apparent reality. I did not want to let go of the person I knew.
I wish someone had told me back then that you find ways to go on. You find happiness in the small moments. And somehow you find the courage to walk through the door and know that a person you have loved for your entire life will look at you blankly as if it is the first time they have ever seen you.
And you do it for them, because they are fighting for you. They are still there, for you. They are still smiling, for you.
It takes unimaginable strength to keep going. But she has.