For the past three years, my family has continued to visit him. My mom goes almost daily, sometimes more than once per day, and is known to call and check on him at any point during the day, and even in the middle of the night. His siblings haven't been to visit him in more than a year. He only has one friend who continues to visit him. His pastor and former Sunday school teacher come to pray with him.
Visits are not easy. He does not talk. He does not walk. He does not maintain eye contact. He cannot feed himself the pureed food that is prepared for him. He sleeps. In fact, if he isn't eating, he is likely asleep. He can do nothing for himself.
But...every once in a while...
There is a Spark of LIFE!
Every once in a while... He will make eye contact with my mom and truly see her. It is rare, but every once in a while he will smile. Oh, how that makes her day!
Recently, my brother was in town to visit our parents. He and my mom went to see my dad. Danny walked behind my mom into his room, and mom said, "Hey, babe, I have a surprise for you." Danny stepped out from behind her, dad looked at him...truly saw him...and smiled. Did he know Danny? Was Danny just familiar? We don't know for sure. As mom was feeding dad lunch, he looked to the other side of her to see Danny, and smiled again. It was at that point that mom believed he really knew who Danny was...if only for a moment. There was a spark...if only for a moment.
A few weeks before that visit, my mom was visiting dad and when she walked into the room he looked at her and smiled. Throughout her visit he answered her questions with one word answers, but seemed to truly understand the questions. The most fascinating part is that he laughed! He giggled. Then, he cried. He went back and forth between laughter and crying, and she stayed by his side until he fell asleep again, relishing the spark she was able to enjoy...if only for a moment.
Even if it is only a moment...it is worth it! It is worth the hours of visits, where we have no recognition of the life that once thrived, for a moment of recognition. For a moment of clarity. For a smile. To be seen. To be heard. To hear him laugh. To see emotion. To see a spark of life...if only for a moment!
Don't stop visiting your loved one! You will miss out on "sparks" and "moments!"
edited to add...Please do not take this post the wrong way. It is not about who still goes, or doesn't go, to see my dad. Perhaps I didn't word everything with perfect clarity, but you will be missing the point if that is what you take from this post. My family thinks no ill of anyone who finds it too difficult to continue visiting. We understand completely, because it is heart-wrenching for us to see him this way, too. This post is meant to be an encouragement for anyone who is walking through this journey with a loved one to continue to visit, in hope that you may see that rare spark of life. We began the blog, not for updates on my dad, but to help others through this journey. As of a few days ago, there were well over 10,000 views of this blog. This is beyond what we imagined, but we are so grateful that others can learn from our experience, and find solidarity on this daunting road.