I began noticing changes with her years ago. There were little things she didn’t seem to remember that she used to do, then irritableness at unexpected moments. Sudden changes occurred from time to time. They seemed to sprout out of nowhere, and they required us to go with the flow or risk cold shoulder treatment.

We got the blank stare when we’d ask about some of her new behaviors.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” would be her standard reply. Or, “I don’t know what to say.”

The people she used to work with started to leave her. She wouldn’t talk about them any more and didn’t seem to remember them or the wonderful, caring way they performed their duties. The look in her eyes has become hard, frightened and sometimes unfocused like she’s not even looking at us. I see it, but it doesn’t want to register in my mind. She never used to look at us that way.

She doesn’t recognize me much any more. She never calls. She doesn’t ask how I’m doing. Maybe she never did. Even I am starting to forget.

I still love her and take care of her. It’s just different now. Who she was is still deep inside her, but something has caused a disconnect. It’s sad and difficult to see her this way. Every once in a while, there’s a brief moment of recollection and connection, but then the curtain falls over her eyes and she doesn’t know who I am again. She doesn’t like spending much time with me like she used to. But still I go to her and visit for as long as she’ll tolerate it.

Once, I had to meet with her in one of the small vendor receiving offices by the security desk. She didn’t want me in her room and she didn’t want to eat lunch with me. That hurt. But she doesn’t mean to hurt me. It’s just the way she is now.

It’s harder to love her now because I know what she used to be like. Not so for her newer acquaintances. It takes but a moment, however, to reflect on all that she’s been and all that she still contains within her, and I smile, sometimes wincingly, and I forgive and I love her. I keep her strong and I take care of her, for she’s a part of me, and I’m a part of her, even though she doesn’t remember or value that much any more.

There are three things that last: faith, hope, and love. I have all three with her. But the greatest of these – that she had and that I carry on – is love.