After watching his mom deteriorate following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, a devoted son decided to take his elderly mom to see the world…
Resulting in an eighteen-month round-the-world trip…
And it has truly melted the heart’s of the internet.
Back in 2018, Sean O’Sallaigh decided to take his mom Mary O’Niel away from Ireland for the winter to enjoy the sun.
But, after seeing how much she thrived and enjoyed it, Sean decided to take his mom around the world.
Sean had been living in Rome when Mary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s back in 2013 at the age of seventy-seven.
It was then he began making frequent trips back and forth to Dublin to help care for her.
As per the Metro, Sean said: “The neurologist told me positive and happy people become moreso as Alzheimer’s progresses. He was right – mum just seemed to get younger, but remained happy.”
“I didn’t try to keep her in my world, I just let her decline into hers. She would happily wipe the table for an hour, and we would just laugh about it together.”
By 2016, Sean was caring for his mom 4 days per week and 2 years later his family began to discuss moving her into a care home.
But, Sean didn’t feel it was right for his mom…
“I couldn’t leave her on her own by then. I had nurses coming in sometimes for respite care,” he said.
“But she had always been so independent. When I was young, she had asked my dad, who was an alcoholic and very difficult with it, to leave. She did that at a time when women in Ireland just didn’t do that, and had fought to survive even though a lot of the community were very hard on her.”
So, that’s when their adventures began…
Sean decided to take Mary to Nepal in February 2018 for some sun.
“She was the best thing in my life. Unconditional love is a thing you don’t get often, and she always gave it, even though she had a tough life,” he said.
“It was cold and dark and I wanted to take her somewhere nicer for winter. I thought Alzheimer’s was just a decline, but when we got to Nepal she started to regain capabilities. She walked more, and she talked more, she even learned new words.”
They planned to return home after a few months but it was such a success, the trip got extended.
“It was warm and she was able to go out so much. We would walk by this lake and watch the children playing. They would come and sit with us at cafes and talk to her all the time and she to them,” Sean explained.
“I would take her hairbrush out with us and the children would brush her hair. They called her Grandma, and she would say ‘namaste’ to everyone.”
“We were there during a festival called ‘Happy Holi‘, where they throw coloured powder up in the air. They asked me if they could throw some over her and she loved it.”
Extending their trip, in April 2018 Sean took Mary to his flat in Rome.
“She recognized Rome because I had taken her to my apartment loads before,” he said.
“There were favorite restaurants to visit and little churches she loved. We stayed in a friend’s house in the Mountains in Umbria when Rome got too hot in July. She thought the cows and goats with bells around their necks were hilarious.”
“To avoid her the indignity of nappies, I used to put her on the toilet quite often.”
“I would pop her commode in the back of the car when we were going on a trip, so she would sit on the side of Italian mountain roads on her commode. Everyone she met in Italy talked to her and wanted to give her a kiss, she loved it.”
And the travels didn’t stop there…
Although Mary was becoming increasingly unwell, Sean and Mary travelled to Capetown.
To do all he could, Sean hired someone to help out with caring for his mom.
“I hired someone called Gloria to help out – Mum got on really well with her. She used to put Mum’s hair in lovely little plaits which Mum loved.”
But sadly, in April 2019 Mary became unable to walk…
And the following month, she passed away aged eight-three due to a chest infection.
“By the end, she would sometimes call me Daddy, and I did feel like a parent. When she passed away, I felt like I had lost my little girl,” Sean said.
“I had to put my life on hold to look after her like that, but it gave me so much too. I had to give up a relationship because I couldn’t give them both the attention they needed, and she had to be my priority just then.”
Despite Sean having to make sacrifices, he loved being able to spend so much time with his mom during her final few years.
“People thought she would be a burden but she just never was,” he said.
“We had a really difficult time when I was young, and we only got through it because we had such an amazing mother.”
“I do feel terribly sad that my family didn’t see her again, but they weren’t able to help look after her, and she needed to be safe and happy. You couldn’t do what I did unless it was really sincere – you couldn’t do it for any other reason than pure love. It was a fountain of goodness. Every day was just so rewarding.”
“She looked at you with those eyes and you knew she appreciated it all.”
“That love from your mother is just so unconditional, and sincere. When I would put her into bed at night sometimes she would say “you are good” or “I love you” and that was enough for me.”