When Mom Kemper died, our world changed drastically and quickly. While planning the funeral, we also had to find a memory care facility with an immediate opening where we could transfer Dad. We had to tend to out-of-town guests, empty Mom and Dad’s apartment, prepare a new place for Dad, and deal with some of health issues. Since the weather was cold, we postponed having an interment ceremony until warmer weather came.
But once summer came a variety of other life issues needed tending and again the interment was postponed. We finally got everyone together and scheduled a date to have Mom’s ashes placed at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Battle Creek. Mike’s sister came to town from out of state, and Mom’s brother and his wife met us at the cemetery.
When we had started out from Grand Rapids, it had been overcast and cool. But as we sat in the shelter while the deacon spoke words of comfort, the sun was out and it was a lovely autumn day. A good day to remember Mom and I was thankful for that small blessing.
Of course, Dad had no idea what was happening. As Mike drove, I sat with him in the back seat and he’d ask me where Donna was (that would be me), where were we going, where’s Mom, what were we doing, and some other questions that didn’t make sense. I kept distracting him by pointing out the changing colors of the trees which he really didn’t engage with. But he was really interested in any truck dealerships or RV dealerships we passed. When I spotted one, I’d point it out and exclaim, “Wow, Dad! Look at all those trucks!” and that would help for about a minute or two before he started wondering what was happening.
After our time at the cemetery we had a late lunch together and by the time we were finished it was getting to be about four in the afternoon. Dad was beginning to go deeper into his confused state. A couple evenings before we’d had an episode of sundowners syndrome and it looked like we’d be having another. Sundowning is a state of confusion and agitation that occurs in the late afternoon into the night with dementia patients. We’d had a very busy week and it was taking a toll on Dad. We did our best to get him home and settled.
All the traveling is done now, the visitors are gone, and Dad is getting back to his regular schedule. But he still asks me where Mom is.
If you want to know more about sundowners syndrome there’s a helpful description of it on Mayo Clinic’s website. You can find it here: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/sundowning/faq-20058511
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.