Grandma Sophie’s Butterfly Garden
I was holding her hand as she sat there staring at the air in front of her. Grandma Sophie no longer recognized me. The only time she spoke was when she was telling my grandpa that the grass needed mowing or it was dinner time. Of course, Grandpa Joe had been gone a long time. Alzheimer’s disease hit Grandma Sophie with a vengeance. It made my mom cry for days after she visited my Grandma. She remembered a time when my Grandma was the life of the party with her stories about animals and recipes. Well, at least for the other farm folk around. City folk didn’t find her stories helpful or amusing, except to poke fun at the simple-minded farm lady who flitted around the local farmer’s market.
Today my Grandma seemed as if she had something on her mind. She kept reaching for something that wasn’t there.
“Grandma Sophie, what are you trying to get?” I asked.
She didn’t answer. She just smiled. One of the nurses peeked in the room. I asked her if my Grandma had been showing this behavior a lot lately. She told me that she had been grasping the air like that a lot and would sometimes mention butterflies.
Of course! That’s it. My Grandma Sophie had a butterfly garden for many years when I was growing up. She had all sorts of flowers that attracted butterflies. Grandma Sophie would sit in her garden for hours some days knitting and watch the butterflies. I remember trying to catch those butterflies when I was a little girl. It was hard to believe how long it had been since those happy and vibrant days of my youth and my Grandma’s.
We knew that it wouldn’t be long before Alzheimer’s claimed Grandma’s life. She had stopped eating unless coaxed and could barely sit up at times. I knew that my Grandma could not sit at the window without supervision. I had to find some way to make the last days of her life joyful if that was even possible for someone with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
After discussing my ideas with the head nurse, I was allowed to bring in a large picture of butterflies and flowers. I was also allowed to hang a butterfly mobile from the ceiling so that she could glance at them while she was bed ridden. I think at one time I saw tears in my Grandma’s eyes as she peered at the mobile from her bed.
As the weeks went on, I was told that every day when she was not sleeping, she would stare at the butterflies and smile. She would reach into the air at times and point. I remember one Tuesday night as I was leaving after a visit, I turned and watched her laying in her bed watching the butterfly mobile sway from the air conditioner. I didn’t know at the time, but that would be the last time I saw her. The next day I received a call at work from my mother telling me that my Grandma had passed. Her heart had failed her. I was comforted, however, knowing that she had passed while floating with her butterflies.