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Thread: "Day 401"

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Default "Day 401"

    "Day 401"

    Placing my mother in the Alzheimer’s care facility -- taking her away from her beloved home of forty years to the place where I knew she was going to die -- was the most difficult, heart-wrenching decision I’ve ever had to make in my life.

    Her condition had nosedived so rapidly following her diagnosis just one year earlier that I was soon literally fighting fires day and night to care for her as best I could. Unfortunately, when that awful night came when she thought the hall closet was her bathroom, and when I found her eyeglasses in the toilet of her actual bathroom, I realized that I could no longer adequately care for her. I knew that I had to get her into an environment where she would be both safe and well cared for. And so, a few days later, I loaded the suitcases holding her clothing into the car trunk, backed the car out of the driveway, and drove her forever away from her home and had her admitted to the care facility.

    Thereafter ensued 401 consecutive days of my traveling the five miles to the facility to visit her. Although the nursing supervisor said that it really wasn’t doing either my mother or myself any good for me to visit my mother daily, I did so out of my profound guilt over having placed her there. But more than that, much more than that, I really did want to see my mother as often as possible, as she was my best friend, the love of my life, and the one and only human being in this world who ever truly loved me, and who loved me because I was me.

    While I witnessed much sad and horrible suffering unfold for my mother as well as the many other dementia patients in the dreary confines of the care facility during my visits, for the first 400 days I was spared my greatest fear: That my mother would reach the point where she would no longer recognize me. I knew that I would prefer death to that eventuality, for it would mean that, even though she was still alive, I would have completely lost my mother forever.

    On Day 401, sadly, when I walked into her room, Mom gazed at me with an uncertain expression, and said fearfully, “Who are you? Why are you here? I don’t want you here.” My greatest fear now realized as horrible reality.

    At this, unable to spend another moment in the care facility that day, I choked “Good-bye” to my dear mother, stumbled outside to my car, and drove home.

    Entering the house, I was totally broken, in both heart and soul, and my pain and anguish were overwhelming, unbearable. And it was that point I realized I could not go on living in this world for even one more day. I had reached the end of my rope. I had reached The End. I had thus no choice but to put myself out of my misery.

    After my father had died his own horrible death from emphysema twenty years earlier, one of his possessions I had inherited was his .357 magnum, which I retrieved from its hiding place and loaded shortly after I entered the house.

    Heartbroken but resolute, I lay on the living room floor. Placing the gun against my forehead, I cocked the hammer. “Forgive me, Mom, for what I’m about to do. I love you, Mom,” I stammered as I began to apply pressure on the trigger.

    But just at that moment, I decided I had better turn on my television set first in order to muffle the sound of the gunshot. Not that such would matter after I was dead...

    The TV came on -- and it was then that everything changed. On my TV screen was Michelle Kwan, skating to “East of Eden.” For some reason, instead of pulling the trigger, I instead listened to the sweet music, and gazed at Michelle as she glided gracefully, passionately, soulfully across the ice, her graceful movements performed in perfect time to the music, looking positively angelic in her bright white skating dress. I was mesmerized by both her performance and her. And right in the middle of her skate, a powerful thought crossed my mind: Even in the darkest of days, there is still much beauty in the world, beauty that makes life worth living. And Michelle epitomized exactly that as she performed to the music, her skating exhibiting a grace and beauty unequalled before or since on the ice.

    As Michelle finished her performance, the camera zoomed in on her face, and I could see a tear in one of her eyes. At this, tears formed in my own eyes as well.

    With a deep, shuddering breath, I carefully uncocked the .357 magnum, unloaded it, set it gently down on the floor next to me.

    The next day, I took it to the gun shop from which my father had purchased it thirty years earlier, and sold it for $200. I then wrote out and mailed a $200 check to the Children’s Miracle Network, which I had heard was Michelle’s favorite charity at that time.

    I wish I could say that the days thereafter were easier, but they were not. My mother never did recognize me again -- and she passed away just two weeks later as I sat grief-stricken at her bedside, holding her limp hand, the hand, and the heart behind it, which had lovingly done so very much for me.

    Mom’s departure left a large void in my life and my heart that has yet to be filled. The old saying “Time heals all wounds” is not true; sometimes, time can make wounds worse.

    However, as heartbroken as I was and still am in the wake of her passing, after seeing Michelle skate to “East of Eden” on that fateful Day 401, I have never again contemplated ending my own life.

    Over the years, some people have asked me why I’m a fan and admirer of Michelle Kwan. To this question I always respond with the same answer: Because of her unparalleled grace and class on the ice, and her heart of gold off the ice.

    All of this is true, of course. But the biggest reason I’m a fan of hers, the reason I have shared with no one until now, is that because, like a bright candle, Michelle led me away from certain death and back to life, led me from the darkness back to the light.

    I have never met Michelle Kwan in person, and I undoubtedly never will. But if I ever did, I would say to her: “Thank you for being a bright candle in the darkness."

    “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light from a single candle.” – Saint Francis of Assisi
    “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light from a single candle.”
    --Saint Francis of Assisi

  2. #2
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    Nov 2005
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    Default

    Rick,

    Thank you for having the courage to share your extremely moving story with us. I believe your story can be impactful to others the way Michelle's skating was to you on day 401.

    Wishing you all the best.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicki View Post
    Rick,

    Thank you for having the courage to share your extremely moving story with us. I believe your story can be impactful to others the way Michelle's skating was to you on day 401.

    Wishing you all the best.
    Thank you very much for your kind comments, Nicki. However, this was a fictional story. I drew upon my actual experiences with my mother, who did indeed suffer greatly, and pass away, from dementia. However, the .357 magnum scene was entirely fictional. I never would have actually taken my life, and thereby abandon my mother while she was dying. I just wanted to write an imaginary tale about Michelle's impact on one life, reflecting the positive impacts she has made on countless peoples' lives in real life.
    Last edited by Rick In San Jose; April 2nd, 2017 at 02:42 AM.
    “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light from a single candle.”
    --Saint Francis of Assisi

  4. #4

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    True or fictional, that was a very beautiful story. One that Michelle should read so that she could know the impact she has made on so many lives.

    Losing a Mother or Father can be very painful and you were right, the pain never goes away and time sometimes makes it worse.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  5. #5

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    Uh, wow!

    My mom died of cancer. At the end she would come in and out of consciousness. I was sitting at her bedside, watching a skating competition, can't remember which one. I do remember Micelle came on the ice, the program was Lyrica. Mom woke up just long enough to see it and she mumbled "she's an angel." It was one of the last things she said, and it brought me great comfort at the time. I had forgotten that. Thanks.

  6. #6

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    Thanks for sharing this work of art with us, Rick! It touched my heart. My mom passed away with Alzheimer's. Michelle's skating has been of great "comfort" to me for years. Melding the two story lines together was a stroke of your genius!

  7. #7
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    Oct 2008
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    Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to read my story and offer your kind and heartfelt comments!
    “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light from a single candle.”
    --Saint Francis of Assisi

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