After my mother’s death, I meet with her geriatric psychiatrist


“Do you know what déjà vu (translation: already seen), is Lisa?” her geriatric psychiatrist asks, pulling me back from my inner thoughts. “Why yes, the feeling that you have been somewhere before, that its familiar.”


“Yes, deja vu, that the strange is familiar. Do you know what jamais vu (translation: never seen) is?” I shake my head, no.


Jamais vu is what our friends experience in dementia – that the familiar is strange. Imagine every moment of your life struggling with something you know, that you’ve known for your entire life, but now it’s strange to you.”



I glance away and imagine my mother sitting in her housecoat. In her illness I see her only through the lens of my own rational thought. My life busy, my time limited and even though I try, I can’t always understand the nuances of her illness.


Rushing to a doctor’s appointment, she might pick up a comb and look at it as if she’s never seen it before, confounded by its very function. Grabbing the comb from her hand I smooth her hair as we rush out the door. Clueless I am to the difficulty she’s experiencing, the disruption of the normal connections being made in her brain.


The connections are finally being made in my brain. The emotional web that exists between dementia patient and dementia caregiver; its strands spun from loss, despair, sadness and guilt. If only I had been more graceful in my role as dementia caregiver, but I wasn’t.


Like breaking through a wave rushing to shore, I stop to fill my lungs with a long, hard breath.




Could it be my first breath of personal forgiveness?

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