My client’s vision and giving them an unforgettable experience is my focus during every photo shoot. But this time, this shoot was about me. This time this shoot was for me, it was my healing and portal to acceptance.
This post is about the beautiful 76 year old lady in the middle. She has been cheering me on, has been supportive and has been praying tirelessly for me for the past 18 years. I always felt (and still feel) accepted and loved by her as if I’m her own. This beautiful lady is my mother-in-law, also known as my mother-in-love.
Still living in Amsterdam we do not see my mother-in-love as often as we would like to. So we decided to have her at ours for a long holiday every year since we’ve made London our hometown. I am going to be really real now. This time having her with us fell hard on me. Her mood swings, her repetitive stories, her general apathy, her asking permission for the tiniest things, her forgetting… I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. All my effort to ignite a spark for a joie de vivre , me trying to ‘help’ , was constantly in vain. At one point I even wondered if she was just pretending? Maybe to get more attention?
One day I was a real mess, my mum rang me, and I started to talk. And cry. And talk. I was overwhelmed by all kind of emotions, mainly because I was becoming a person I don’t like. Easily angered, annoyed and avoiding behaviour… I wasn’t feeling like myself, usually quite happy and glass half full type of person.
That day, that moment, that phone call my mum broke it down for me. She said very lovingly: “Dominique you need to start to accept that your mother-in-law has dementia.” My heart skipped a beat, my breath became more heavy and my eyes were watering up again. Yes I knew she forgets, and she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer but the diagnoses was withdrawn shortly after. This time these words just touched, or actually hit me.
I started to realise I have to accept my mother-in-love forgets more and more. Accept that she has changed. Accept she has dementia. I really had to sit down to let this digest. I never expected this news would be so emotionally draining. What I do when I need to get my head aligned with my heart is writing. So I started to write about my dear mother-in-love, and started to write my way to healing and dedicated a photo shoot to her with hair and make-up done by my dear daughter Lisa.
Dementia is such a painful experience, for both sides. Frustration is one of the biggest signs my mother-in-love suffers from and the impotence on my side is one of the hardest things to accept. I am very thankful she still recognises us, her loved ones.
My awesome brother-in-love and his stunning wife and my amazing sister-in-love, I thank you for all you do for mum. You are loved and so much appreciated, for what you do and who you are.
About the shoot: Grey background, because life isn’t so black and white anymore. Many grey areas. Colour photos show her vividly. Eyes closed indicate the unclear moments and with her eyes open the clear (to her) ones. Although she suffers dementia, we still lean on her and need her in our lives. She belongs. Here. With us.
“Mum I honour you. I choose to love you just the way you are today. Truth is: You are still so so lovely. You are still so so beautiful. You are still so so loved. I accept you. And when I am overwhelmed I’ll pray God will remind me about this truth.”
The moment my mother-in-love saw the photos: “Who is that? Oh, I see it is me! Who took these photos? When?” She started laughing “I forgot… I still look good don’t I?! And I am so proud of my girls.”