Saturday, August 21, 2010

Alzheimer’s Dementia Hospice Story: Coping With Grief

“She’ll rise out of her grave…”

This true story about a conversation with my hospice patient is one of many in my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes.

When Mamie Wilson became my hospice patient, she had several unusual qualities that made me wonder. At sixty-five with Alzheimer’s dementia, she was the youngest patient assigned to me after years of hospice volunteering. She had the same name as my grandmother, and I had her grandmother's name. When we made these discoveries during our first meeting, we took them as signs that we were destined to have a great patient-volunteer relationship. In time, I learned that the most unusual thing about Mamie was what she said.

“Is your mother alive?” Mamie asked me one day.

“No, she died a few years ago in her eighties,” I responded.

“You know, you can still be with her and talk to her if you want to.”

“Oh, I know we can still communicate.”

“No, I mean for real. You can be with her in person. Just get her clothes together and her shoes. Don’t forget her coat. They say it’s cold outside. Take them to the cemetery where she’s buried. Just set them on top of her grave and wait. She’ll rise out of her grave and put them on. Then you can take her home with you. In every way, she’ll be the same person you knew. Other people won’t be able to see her, but you will.”

“Hmm. I’ve never heard that before.”

“Most people haven’t. I know about it because I did it with my two grown sons. They were both murdered on the same day in a drive-by shooting. I didn’t know how I would get through the pain. Finally, I took their clothes to the cemetery and did what I just told you. Both of them came home with me. It was the best day of my life. I got my sons back.” Satisfied, she smiled.

Some people will dismiss this story as crazed comments of a demented woman. But, if you really listen, you’ll hear the magnificent empowerment in her words.

© Frances Shani Parker

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and several other countries at online and offline booksellers.


  1. Yep! It may sounds crazy but if you think of it in other way it's not.
    After all, It is our treasured memories that keep our love ones alive.