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My mom could have died when I was 25, but she didn’t.

She was, however, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which can often feel like a death.

In the nine years since her diagnosis, I have often felt angry about being robbed of my time with her. I can no longer call my mom or ask her for advice. I can no longer rely on her to be my biggest cheerleader and greatest support. I can no longer go out to lunch, a movie, or shopping with her.

I don’t know what it’s like to have an adult relationship with my mom and I never will.

That makes me sad. It makes me angry. I feel like I’ve been robbed of my mom too soon. Just as I was learning to appreciate her and all of the things she did for me, she started disappearing right before my eyes and the dynamic of our relationship changed drastically.

For a long time, I felt sorry for myself. To be honest, sometimes I still do. But then, one day it hit me. Yes, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was 25—but she could have died instead. Wouldn’t that have been much worse? Wouldn’t it have been much more devastating for her life to just end abruptly from a heart attack or a car accident or terminal cancer?

If my mom had died when I was 25, she would not have been at my wedding.

She would have never met her two granddaughters.

If my mom had died when I was 25, I would have never quit the job I hated to start taking care of her.

I would have never started writing.

If my mom had died when I was 25, I would have never gotten the chance to make amends for having not appreciated her when I was younger.

I would have never gotten the chance to show her how much I love her and how much she means to me.

If my mom had died when I was 25, I wouldn’t have gotten to spend the last nine years with her.

She would have never been able to teach me all that she has taught me over the last nine years.

She would have never been able to change my perspective on life the way she has over the last nine years.

I would have never learned that you can still be grateful, even while your heart is breaking.

My mom could have died when I was 25, but instead, she was diagnosed with an illness. An illness that has shattered my heart and crushed my soul and changed my life forever. An illness so dark and so ugly you are forced to find the beauty and the light. An illness that has made me the person and writer I am today, the person and writer I never would have become without it.

I can sit around feeling sorry for myself and thinking about all of the things I’ve lost because my mom has Alzheimer’s, all of the time I’ll never have with her. Or, I can think about all of the things I’ve gained from this hardship, all of the time I’ve spent with her over the last nine years. I don’t know that I would have ever spent that much time with her otherwise.

It makes me sad that it took losing her in this way to make me stop and really appreciate her, but it also makes me grateful that I even had the chance to do so. I know many people aren’t so lucky. They never got that chance. If my mom had died when I was 25, I would have been one of them.

Maybe it’s too late for you, but if it’s not, I hope this stops you dead in your tracks. I hope you call your mom. I hope you send her flowers. I hope you take her to lunch. I hope you tell her thank you and that you love her. I hope you ask her about all of the things you’ve ever wanted to know. I hope you show her how much she means to you and not just today, but every day for the rest of her life.

Take it from a girl who got a second chance.

My mom could have died when I was 25, but she didn’t.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

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Lauren Dykovitz

Lauren Dykovitz is a writer and author. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two black labs. Her mom, Jerie, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010 at age 62. Lauren was only 25 years old at the time. Jerie passed away in April 2020 after a ten-year battle with Alzheimer's. Lauren writes about her experience on her blog, Life, Love, and Alzheimer’s. She has also been a contributing writer for several other Alzheimer’s blogs and websites. Lauren self-published her first book, Learning to Weather the Storm: A Story of Life, Love, and Alzheimer's. She is also a member of AlzAuthors, a group of authors who have written books about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Please visit lifeloveandalzheimers.com to read more about Lauren’s journey.

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