Gaslight is a 1944 film about a woman whose husband deliberately attempts to make her think she’s going insane. He moves things around, creates auditory and visual illusions and ensures that she is the only one present to witness them. He flickers the gaslight lamps to frighten her and makes the benign seem sinister and unfamiliar. She becomes paranoid and confused, often hysterical when things happen that no one around her acknowledges.
I suspect that’s how it was for my Mormor, or grandmother. Alzheimer’s moved things around, erased memories and replaced them with smoke and mirrors. Of course she was sometimes hysterical. Of course she became angry and paranoid. Her mind was no longer her own, and as the disease took up more and more space she was quickly lost. I had always thought of Alzheimer’s as a gradual degradation, but hers was swift and merciless; a horrible end to a most spectacularly beautiful life.
She leaves behind a legacy of strength and elegance. A fierce love for her family and the most unselfish desire to help others I’ve ever known. She sacrificed so much in her life to ensure the happiness of people she loved, but did not once complain or draw attention to it.
One thing I keep coming back to was the way in which she carried herself. Always with grace and the kind of confidence that comes from knowing exactly who you are. Her illness robbed her of that self-possession and that quiet dignity. She became angry and increasingly violent. She no longer recognized the people she had loved the most in her life, and in the end, her brain stopped functioning. Her passing is a blessing in that she is finally free of a body that ultimately betrayed her. No more smoke and mirrors. No more flickering gaslight in the night. Just peace.