My mother’s memory flitted in and out like restless little bird. Each morning I had to repeat the story of her trip to the hospital, the virus, the AFIB, and her transfer to the rehabilitation center. She couldn’t remember the day of the week, the current month, or even the year for as little as 15 seconds.

But then, as day gave way to darkness, she would look at me with sudden focus and clarity, and with a sense of urgency, revealed various secret hiding places for the little treasures she had spent a lifetime collecting.

She gave those end-of-life instructions to me – the safe, the will, the distribution of momentos to the grandchildren, the heirlooms in the attic – panicked that the information would disappear as suddenly as her recollection of it. I didn’t want to think about the end of her memories, much less the end of her time on this earth – how could it be time already? But the calmness in her voice reassured me, and I realized that we were sharing sacred mother-daughter moments that will stay with me until it becomes my turn to lie in that bed and tell my secrets.

And I was forever changed.

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