Marcia Gay Harden Recalls the Heartbreaking Moment Her Mom with Alzheimer's Didn't Recognize Her
Marcia Gay Harden knew the moment was inevitable. Still, it was no less heartbreaking when her beloved mother, Beverly, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, forgot who Harden was for the first time a few years ago.
“We were on the phone and she said, ‘I’m sorry, but who are you?’ ” writes Harden of the call with Beverly, 81, in a moving new memoir, The Seasons of My Mother, exclusively excerpted in this week’s issue of PEOPLE.
In her book, the Oscar-winning actress reflects on memories and lessons gleaned from Beverly’s life – as a mother, a creative force and a demure yet fierce wife of a Navy officer – while also opening up about her Alzheimer’s journey.
“I was prepared for it, it’d been coming on gradually, so there wasn’t really a shock. ‘It’s okay if you don’t remember me,’ I said. ‘I will always remember you.’ “
Beverly was diagnosed in her early 70s after years of increasingly apparent memory issues. Her “clarity comes and goes”, says Harden, who, along with her brother and three sisters, pitches in to support her mom, now living with full-time care in her home state of Texas.
“Several months later [after the phone call], she said to me, ‘I know there is something important about you, but I can’t remember what it is,’ and then later, ‘When you walked in the room, I felt something happy, like there was something about your face that was special to me’.”
While not unexpected, the “evaporation” of her mom’s memory can be haunting for Harden. “It’s regret, anxiety, guilt… I carry it with me all the time – the pain of Mom’s situation and the appreciation of her beauty,” the Code Black star tells PEOPLE. “The sadness and horror of it all is a given. But what we do with it is the key… you repurpose the pain into something positive.”
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With The Seasons of My Mother, Harden hopes to honor Beverly’s legacy and cast light on her beauty. “[E]ven as the pitch-black darkness of this hideous disease called Alzheimer’s advances, the core of my mom has remained the same,” she writes. “I think of it as her light that cannot be extinguished.”
And though the disease has stolen her mom’s memory, her spirit shines through. As Harden tells PEOPLE, “The essence of my mother is still here.”
For more exclusive excerpts from The Seasons of My Mother, and PEOPLE’s interview with Harden, pick up this week’s issue, on stands Friday.
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