Memory and the St. Johns River

During my mother Lois‘ last year of life, she lived at St. Catherine Labouré Manor, a skilled nursing facility on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, FL.

Mom longed for the out-of-doors. She had always been a walker, a lover of nature. The constraints and losses of Alzheimer’s didn’t change her longing. If anything, what was most important at the core for her may have been highlighted.

Jim and I learned quickly that we needed to take her out to St. Catherine’s rose garden as often as possible—either with her walker, while she was still able to use it, or in her wheelchair later on.

The rose garden overlooks the St. Johns’ at its widest point. In that childlike way of Alzheimer’s people, she was always delighted by the three mile expanse of the water before her—as if seeing it for the first time.

The beautiful thing about these visits was that we could sit with her at length, watching the water, holding hands or not, not needing to talk. Once she could no longer speak, we still knew each other’s presence—by sight and by touch and by sharing the river.

In July, six months after Mom’s death, I wrote in Bereft [see Note] about the paradoxes of grief.

Rationally [Crippled Wolf] understands what death is, yet that deeper animal part of him continues not to understand.

How can a person simply stop being?

I closed that post with the following:

Crippled Wolf doesn’t know if there is any continuity of the “self” after death. It’s a familiar, traditional belief, yet he is not one of those people who—as the Quakers say—”knows this experimentally” (that is, experientially).

That, perhaps, is part of why he continues to be confounded… She continues in memory, yet he doesn’t know where she is.

Memory is the mystery—and the recurring surprise.

Many things can trigger that memory.

This is one:

St. Johns River, off the promenade of Memorial Park in Riverside, Jacksonville, FL, by Mike Shell
And so it is.

Blessèd Be.

Note: Crippled Wolf is a quasi-autobiographical storytelling persona.


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