One night about three weeks ago, we entered a dark place where time meant nothing. Emotions were a reality. In which nothing made sense to the three of us involved–my Mom, an aid, and me. It was a place of anger and frustration; fear and uncertainty; where neither logic nor history played a part. It was a place of “sound and fury signifying nothing.” (William Shakespeare, Macbeth)
Mother was confused, lost in a time and space that only she could understand. She asked for me to get persons that had long since passed from the earthly sense. She desperately wanted to escape and be rescued. She was fearful of the hospital even though we were at home in her bed. She accused me of things I could never want much less do. It was a place of “sound and fury signifying nothing.”
This event and the quotation above reminded me of The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner. When I tried to read this in school, high school or junior high, I got no more that a quarter in the book and became totally lost. It was not until years later when I read a critique of Faulkner’s novel that I grasp the premise. That night with my Mother was so bizarre that I did not know what to do accept protect her from the hallucinations and from potential harm to herself.
While Mom’s confusion of time and events continues, nothing as strong as this has happened again. For that we are grateful. She does say things that might normally be hurtful, but we know those are an expression of her raw emotions and not of her heart and mind. I share this event and perhaps others in the future to comfort those that may yet experience them or have experienced them and are not able to share what they witnessed in their loved one.
I have read quite a number of articles and a few books about the human brain–PTSD, depression, dementia, personality changes, etc. I actually read my first book about what scientists were learning about the brain in the 1980’s. Looking back, even though it was cutting edge work, it was far less than the tip of the iceberg. In our effort to help persons, couples, and families, we have seen an incredible range of emotions, events, excuses, and effects. At times, the quote from Shakespeare is the only adequate way to respond in the moment when a radical event takes place.
Again, as a follower of Jesus Christ, it is not the event that is all important. It is how we respond to the event(s) whatever they may be. So, in that moment of “sound and fury”, what did I do? As gently as I could I explained that persons sought be my mother simply could not come be with us. I asked her questions to help all of us understand what she was experiencing. I protected her from attempting to stand even though that agitated her. I knew she could not stand because of her mental state and because her legs had grown progressively weaker in the preceding two weeks. I tried to calm her even though that was hopeless at first.
Love and protection were all I could offer in that moment. I wanted to do more but with her mind jumping through time and space, I could only be present. She has at times been having these moments when she would ask for people no longer present. She has had a hard time understanding where she is in the present–home, hospital, etc. Thankfully, we have not had another event that I would call the dark place described above. So, we continue to love her and protect her as much and as adequately as we can all by God’s grace.