It’s me, Sofia. I’m your granddaughter. I’m eighteen years old, the oldest of the three grandchildren in the family. My mom says I have your smile, your height, and your figure. If I could only have a heart as kind as yours. You were the first person to hold me when I was born, your big blue eyes immediately connecting with my tiny brown eyes as they took in the world for the first time, forming a bond that could never break. You taught me to braid my hair, bake bread, say a few words in Swedish, and be kind to strangers. More importantly, however, you taught me how to love unconditionally.
I remind you of these things because you may not remember them. You have dementia, a disease that causes you to struggle with memory sometimes. I know this can be scary and disorienting for you, but you are surrounded by people who love you more than words can describe. No matter what, I am there for you, and will always be by your side with a hug and a reminder that you are loved, just as you did so many years ago when I was a child. I am there for you on good days, when you remember my name and ask me how college is going. Even on not-so-good days, when you confuse me with my mother or don’t remember that I’m your grandchild.
Some people say they “lose” relatives to dementia, but I know that deep down, you’re the same Mima I’ve had for my entire life. You haven’t given up your witty sense of humor; a few weeks ago, you made my day when you looked in the mirror and exclaimed “I look like a dead body. Please fix my hair!”. And you still haven’t forgotten your favorite nickname for me, “silly goose”! Your 60-year relationship with your husband hasn’t changed a bit (I bet you can still fit into your wedding dress), and I hope someday I can find someone that loves and respects me as much as Grandpa Bob does to you. But the one thing that I’m certain will never change about you is your kind, graceful heart. Wherever you go, you leave a trail of smiles in your path because of the love you radiate out to the world. When you were diagnosed with congestive heart failure, the nurses who took care of you cried when you were released from the hospital. They told me that you always took the time to thank them and told them how much you appreciated their help, even in the middle of a life-altering crisis. You brought an entire community of people joy as the pastor’s wife, giving your wisdom to those in need. Now, at 86 years old, you keep your caretakers and family filled with positivity because of your bright personality and attitude towards life.
On top of it all, watching you live with dementia has taught me so much about how to live my life. You’ve shown me that words matter far less than I thought they did; even if you forget what someone said to you, you don’t forget their actions. You’ve helped me realize that life is rich and fleeting, and I should enjoy every moment of my youth, but also accept that aging is a unique and beautiful experience. You’ve proved that the way many people treat people with memory disorders is wrong; you are anything but a burden, are capable of loving, and a true essence of who you are will never be lost. I am so proud of you Mima. For everything you’ve done in your life, and all you continue to do. Thank you for blessing us with your presence in our lives.
Lots of love,
Sofia, your “silly goose.”