There is a term – ambiguous loss – that is used to illustrate the impossible-to-describe situation of the loss of a person who remains here physically but may not be mentally or emotionally present. When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018, her diagnosis left me devastated, anxious and hopeless. How to grapple with the slow erasure of my mother even as she remains here with us? Va a Llover Toda la Noche is my desperate attempt to cope with her prognosis. In this work, I bridge her past: one I know only via her telling (and which disappears more each day as her illness advances); our present: which is equally deeply affected; and our future together: the contours which change with each passing day. This project is my effort to create a dialogue about ambiguous loss, process my own grief, and reinterpret my relationship to my mother in a way that attempts to understand her illness.
Alzheimer’s disease is primarily characterized by loss of memory and declining cognitive function. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, and Latinxs are 1.5 times more likely to develop the disease than non-Latinx white people. The National Institute of Health estimates that Latinxs with Alzheimer’s disease will increase nine-fold by 2060, affecting 3.5 million people.
In Va a Llover Toda La Noche, I weave images from my mother’s existing archive, my personal archive and messages from my family to explore the present and future that her illness robs us of. Using brain scans of patients with Alzheimer’s as a jumping-off point, I make interventions on these images that mimic my interpretation of what the disease does to my mother’s memories. This work engages with the challenging emotions of grieving a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease through the unique lens of our mother-daughter relationship with the goal of connecting my own struggles of loss and grief with the broader community of those affected.