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Enter Mourning: A memoir on death, dementia and coming home
By Heather Menzies

Chapter 6: Beginning to Fail (excerpt)

We took turns agreeing that each of our cups was lovely to look at. And then we sat in comfortable silence, the pendulum wall clock ticking beside us. She still leaned in for a kiss, but I noticed that even these muscles were getting weaker. I stroked the soft skin between her thumb and forefinger, and she did the same to me. And so September drifted into October, and I marvelled at how our tea ritual held us – as the rituals of mass have been found to hold others with severe, late-stage dementia. Dr. Sacks writes of such a man in The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat: “I saw an intensity and steadiness of attention and concentration that I had never seen before in him or conceived him capable of…the perfect alignment of his spirit with the spirit of the Mass…. He was wholly held, absorbed, by a feeling.”

One day, Mum held up the teacup I’d just handed her.

“I’m supposed to drink out of this?”

“Yes, Mum,” I said. “That’s the cup,” and I took a sip from mine.

“Ah,” she said, and followed suit.

Another day, we were sitting there quietly, the only sound being her clock on the wall near her bed, and she said, “See that shiny thing going back and forth?”

I could tell she meant the pendulum of the clock reflected in the mirror on the wall opposite us. Yes, I said, and was about to name it as I was still in the habit of doing. But Mum spoke first.

“Isn’t it lovely?” she said.

The word pendulum lodged in my throat, suddenly utterly irrelevant. I swallowed hard then nodded. Yes, I said, squeezing Mum’s hand. “It is lovely to look at,” just for what it is, without a name or understood function.

Lovely, just in itself.

All Contents Copyright © Heather Menzies