Amy, my brother and I spent an important Christmas with my mother at her assisted-living facility today — a bittersweet celebration tinged with the reality of her increasingly declining health.

It is both heartwarming and enjoyable to see her eyes light up when she opens a gift for herself but also heartbreaking when you realize a few minutes later she increasingly does not understand what is happening around her.

Conversations that drift in and out of reality, vacant stares from a mind that struggles to recognize her old children and relatives and the knowledge that so much of the memory what happened today will be gone by nightfall cast a pall on a day that has always been important in our family.

Still, we saw flashes of joy and brief periods of recogntion and that made the day worth the heartbreak that brought tears on the trip home as snow covered the roads.

This may well be my mother’s last Christmas with us but it will always be one we spent together.

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