I vividly remember the first time my mom looked at me and truly didn’t know who I was.
Yes, it was devastating and yes, I mourned that loss for a very long time.
One thing I see over and over again on social media, especially in support groups, is how devastating it is when your loved one with Alzheimer’s doesn’t know who you are anymore.
But now I’m going to say something that might surprise you.
I actually felt closer to my mom when she no longer knew who I was, than I did when she still remembered me.
It didn’t happen immediately, and it didn’t come without a lot of tears, but I eventually came to a place where it no longer mattered to me.
I stopped expecting her to know who I was.
I stopped expecting her to do the right things or say the right words.
I stopped focusing on what I needed from her and began focusing on what I could do for her.
I realized that love doesn’t mean knowing someone’s name or recognizing their face.
It doesn’t mean saying “I love you” or even writing it in a card.
It doesn’t mean knowing every little fact about you and every little thing you’ve done in your whole life.
In the last few years, my mom didn’t know my name, but she knew my presence.
She didn’t know our relation, but she knew the sound of my voice.
She didn’t recognize my face, but she recognized my soul.
She felt safe and loved with me, even if she didn’t know why.
Love isn’t knowing who you are. It’s knowing you.
Your heart. Your soul. Your presence. Your love.
I realize not everyone has this same experience, but if you are struggling with your loved one not knowing who you are, I hope you will meet it with a blind, stubborn love, and an outright refusal to accept that your loved one doesn’t know you.
Your loved one knows you.
And if you open yourself to it, I hope you will see what I have seen.