One rainy afternoon I was visiting Mother at the nursing home. She has severe dementia, and our conversations are mostly one sided. I talk about my girls and events in which they and their children are involved. I talk about going to church and to choir practice. Five minutes later I can tell the same story. She doesn’t remember.
On rare occasions she will surprise me with a completely, logical statement or question. For instance, if I overload her with too much information, she will clearly tell me to “Shut up!” The first few times this happened I was hurt and shocked. Mother never told me to “Shut up” in my entire life. Now I know that isn’t my mother saying such things. It’s the dementia talking.
That day Mother asked me where Joe was. Joe was my daddy and has been dead twenty six years. I didn’t know what effect learning that Daddy was dead would have on her. When she asksabout deceased family members or friends, I’ve been making up scenarios for where they are; so when she asked about Daddy, I said, “Maybe he’s gone to the feed store. He’s probably over there talking with Mr. Ashmore or some of his buddies.” Mother agreed.
After a while, she asked about him again. This time I placed him in his garden. She said, “He’s been gone a long time.” I told her he would be back soon. Months before, when she could still verbalize, she had told me about a dream she had. Daddy was walking down the sidewalk toward her. He said, “I told you I would come back for you.”
Wanting to get away from this subject, I called her attention to the butterfly bush that grows just outside her window. I commented on how pretty the deep purple blooms were, and added, “There won’t be any butterflies out there today because it’s raining.”
Right away she said, “There’s one.”
Sure enough. A beautiful orange and black Monarch (butterfly) had settled on a blossom. A wave of unexplainable emotion swept over me. I couldn’t ask Mother what she was thinking as she looked at the butterfly. She had her eyes closed. I looked to see if she was breathing. I never thought of my dad as a butterfly, and I don’t believe in reincarnation; but Daddy was a gentle man with a devout and spiritual soul. Who was I to question the One who had created the butterfly and all of God’s creatures? That could be Daddy come to prepare the way for Mother to join him on the butterfly bush.
Jo Carolyn Beebe lives in Towns County, GA with her husband, John. She is a writer of historical fiction and also is involved in genealogical research. Her mother is a resident of a Nursing Home in Hiawassee.