When I turn to face her, she is already gone.
She stands before me, hands on the counter in front of her, body arched towards the sink. Her eyes are up, her face forward, reflecting back at her in the mirror. The dark grey hair frames her face, and as my eyes find her own I realize she has left me and I wonder how to find her.
Her face is contorted, watching the image in the mirror. The reflection back – is it a stranger to her? I wonder
I am mesmerized by her face. I study the laugh lines, the sun spots, but mostly I study the pain. There aren’t any walls up in this moment. It’s just she and the image in the mirror. I see the despair, the vague look of one who is simply lost. Is it a moment of clarity? Or is it a moment of pain, of emotions bubbling to the surface in which she can’t quite decipher?
I reach forward, speaking her name and turning on the tap below her. She comes back. She reaches forward, the hands letting the water rush over the skin, and although the moment passes and is written into history I cannot shake the image of her face.
I try to explain it in our meeting. I think of it that night as I lay in bed. Her face. So lost.
It’s an image I won’t ever forget. The face of a disease that steals memories, that steals words and moments and a lifetime of stories.
But that face?
It sometimes still smiles.
When her love walks in the room, it lights up.
As Irish tunes float from the old piano breaking the silence, her wrinkles reveal years of laughter and joy.
That face might bear the image of a disease but it also tells me another story, of a life lived well and long. Those images are fleeting – but they are there. And I grasp onto them, determined that this disease cannot always win. It cannot steal it all.
And so we play the music, and we wait for the smiles, and we remind ourselves, that in the end – in this moment –
it doesn’t win.