When it comes to dealing with memory loss, the famous Korean movie “A moment to remember” and the Hollywood hit “The Notebook” pops up. I reckon a lot of us ended up watching the movies with a box of tissues that night. But will a box of tissue suffice if you had to deal with it real-time, every waking moment of your life?
For my final series, I wanted to write something different. So I have picked an inspirational story of three strong sisters who lost their mother to memory loss.
In the late 90s, there lived a young couple with three beautiful daughters. The father was barely around, his work always kept him away from home. But the mother made sure that his absence was never felt by their daughters. She dotted over them, always keeping them well dressed, well fed and happy.
She always made sure that her daughters had everything they needed. For instance, while the two older children were put in a boarding, she wanted to ensure they were well fed. So, she would often take dried fish to the hostel cook, and instruct him not to forget to serve it to her daughters.
However, everything changed when the young mother began to suffer from a memory lapse. This was when the eldest daughter (aged around 8 by that time) started noticing the change in her mother’s way of dressing, and how she would be found talking to herself. At first, the lapse lasted just for an hour. Then slowly, the duration got longer.
During the initial stage of her memory loss, the mother would get agitated for no reason. Sometimes, while leaving the house, she would lock her three daughters in, forgetting their existence. Other times, after sending her eldest daughter to school in the morning, she would bring her back mid-day once the agitation kicked in.
The daughters were too young to understand the confused behavior of their mother.
Yet, even when her condition worsened and she would find three little strangers beside her, she never forgot a mother’s role. She would bathe them, dress them up, pack their tiffin and send them to school. Her maternal instinct never left her even when her memory did.
During this time (2000), as the father was never home, the mother took the kids to her village; maybe the serene ranges gave her more peace than the town. The eldest daughter was now 11 years of age, the second 7 and the youngest 4. But the father got word of it and of the worsened condition; he decided to take the daughters away for their sake.
To ensure that the mother wouldn’t feel the absolute loss of her daughters, he left the youngest at her care. As the two daughters look back to that day, all they can remember is how their baby sister ran behind the vehicle till they were out of sight, saying she wanted to leave with them too.
As there was no improvement, even the youngest daughter was brought back to be with her sisters. And rumors have it that the mother kept searching for the three little girls whenever her memory would let her remember them. Even though she couldn’t remember her daughters, she couldn’t live without them, like a mother’s love that never ceased.
Having deprived of the only emotional connection she had, the mother left the state (Manipur) for good. Because, a majority of the time, let alone her children, she couldn’t remember what on God’s sweet earth was the emptiness she felt!
There were times when her memory would come back to her for days too. In one such day, she decided to visit her daughters in Ukhrul. She took them aside and asked them if they were being treated well by their step-mother, that if their father was looking after their needs. But this was the last time they saw of her because after her return from the visit, her memory lapse worsened.
It was not that the daughters or the husband never visited or tried to call her. Truth was, she couldn’t remember them thereafter and often times she refused to see them. It was the understanding from both the families that honoring her refusal was the best thing to do.
The eldest daughter had the hardest time dealing with it, the frustrating sense of being there and not being there at the same time. Growing up, she found it hard to comprehend never having a mother to call her own, not having the person you could bare and cry your heart out in times of hardship. Up till her graduation, she cried every night, unable to come to terms with it. She would always say a desperate prayer to God, to heal her mother. With time, she moved on, so has the other younger sisters.
Sixteen years later after the seperation, the mother now no longer recognizes her daughters; not the names, the voice or the faces. She would no longer take their calls or see them. To her, they are just another faces on the street
On a lucky day, 5 minutes is where all the memories would come flooding back to her. Almost like a lifetime of stories she had to unravel in the quickest time. But how much can you really remember in that split minutes? Snapping out of the 5 minutes must’ve left her wondering why she had a smile on her face.
If only fairy tales were for real, this story would’ve deserved a happy ending.
(The daughters are now in their 20’s. If you ask them what it is that holds them together, they will tell you that it is the love their mother showed them even when her memory lapsed.)
I battled with myself to write a more cheerful story or rather talk about my mother for the final tale. Then I remembered these sisters. For some of us, deaths have claimed our mother. For some, we still enjoy our mother’s presence and love by the grace of God. But for these sisters, their mother lives only in their memory, like a one-sided love story.
Even though life never gave them a chance to tell their mother how much they care, these sisters haven’t given up on her. What about you and me? We still have our mothers and have we done enough for her? Do you remind her everyday how thankful you are for her?
I take refuge in the thought that for what they’ve been through, the story of these three brave sisters will let the rest of us realize how fortunate we are to still have a mother who cares; to remind us to stop taking our mothers for granted.
Let’s show our mothers we care while we still can. I hope you made her feel special this Mother’s Day.