A Great-Grandmother’s Gift

Carol A. Hand

When my grandson, Aadi, was 7 years old, we went with his mother to visit his great-grandmother, Norma. Norma, my mother, was living in a home with other elders who needed attendants and nurses to provide care because she could no longer take care of herself. She had developed Alzheimer’s disease, an illness that caused her to lose her memories, her ability to communicate with others, and her ability to meet her own basic needs.

Speech was difficult for her, and when she did speak, her words rarely made sense – they often seemed to be bits and pieces from other distant times. Aadi’s mom, Jnana, was so kind and gentle with her grandmother, and so patient. Aadi was also gentle with his great-grandmother. He sat at her feet, carefully holding her fragile, wrinkled hand. I knelt down next to Aadi, and said to my mother, “This is your great grandson, Aadi.” My mother looked at me and said, “Aadi.” I smiled and then looked at Aadi and asked, “Did you hear her? She said your name!” Aadi shook his head, “no.” Then, my mother looked at Aadi, and then at me, and said, “He’s a good boy.” I asked Aadi if he heard this. This time, Aadi shook his head, “yes.”

Perhaps Aadi does not realize how magical this gift really was. Somehow in the later stages of a disease that robbed his great-grandmother of her language and the ability to communicate, she was able to show how special he was to her. She was able to say his name and tell him that he was a good boy.

Aadi’s great-grandmother made important contributions in her long life. She traveled many places and met people from many different walks of life. She was always a good judge of character. And somehow, because of her ability to see beneath the surface appearance of things, and because of the strength of her love, she was able to find words to tell her great grandson, Aadi, how special he is.

Norma and Aadi

Photo Credit: Norma, Aadi (3 months old), and Carol

And, Aadi is, indeed, good, although he is now a good, handsome, young man.


Aadi 7

Photo Credit: Aadi (7)



aadi ava ahma 2010

Photo Credit: Aadi, Ava, and Ahma (2010)



10 thoughts on “A Great-Grandmother’s Gift

  1. My grandfather suffers from Alzheimer’s, it’s one of the saddest diseases. Thank you for sharing this, Carol.


    1. Thank you, Jeff. It is a tragic disease and I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather. It was hard to watch my mother decline slowly but I am truly grateful for the staff who cared for her for more than 13 years.


    1. I agree, Cthebean, there are some special moments amidst the unpredictable challenges and sorrow of watching someone you love suffer through so many losses.


  2. My mother suffered for 5 years with this terrible illness before she choked on a sandwich and passed away, it turned out she had forgotten how to swallow properly and the food just built up in her throat, I cared for her for four & a half years before it became to much for me and I had to let her go into a nursing home, even now I feel guilty I wish I had done more. It was horrible seeing her fade away each day and I have every sympathy for anyone is caring for or has a close relative who is suffering this way. My mums at peace now.


    1. Neil, thank you for sharing this story about your mother. She is lucky to have a son like you who took on the monumental task of caregiving, and your decision to place her in a nursing home was in many ways both wise and kind. I remember my mother’s last days when she could no longer swallow, not even water, yet she continued to struggle for each breath as I stroked her hair. It was all I could do. Finally her brain shut down even those signals to breath and she was finally at peace. It helps me remember to live today as wisely and compassionately as I can. And as you say, you mums at peace too.


  3. My poor father-in-law had a 20 year decline with Alzheimer’s. It is a terrible disease indeed. Treasure the good times you had with your mother, and let’s hope that some day there is a cure for it.

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