June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month and No Bags To Check is going purple with a series dedicated to this important cause and the Alzheimer’s Association’s The Longest Day event on June 21st.
I started writing this letter during a training at work. We were talking about dealing with death as caregivers of older adults and were asked to write a letter about someone we've lost. Immediately, I started writing this to you. I had to stop because I was tearing up in a room full of co-workers and it was time to stop for lunch, but I decided to finish it here:
I can't believe it's been almost 6 years since you've been gone. You were always such a big presence in my life, even though I didn't get to see you as often as I would have liked. I remember recording videos and tapes to send to you- my sister and I would show you our latest toys, play a tune on the piano for you, sing a song.
I loved staying at your old farmhouse in the summer, watching you reel the laundry in and out on your clothes line, catching the latest episode of The Young and the Restless, reading a romance novel from your massive collection in the bedroom upstairs. I can still picture you crocheting on our couch when you would come to visit and trying to teach me for the millionth time. How lucky we were to be able to take trips with you to the museums in Washington, D.C. and Ellis Island when I was young.
You inspired me more than you probably realized. Growing up, it was to be an independent strong woman. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been a widow for almost 40 years after my grandfather died. But you kept that big house and really our family running for so many years. I loved to hear the stories about how you were determined to go to beauty school and work in a salon when it still wasn't very common for a woman your age to not be married and work on her own. Even though you were often so far away, I knew you were thinking of me and proud of my accomplishments.
It was devastating to see the Alzheimer's take away your independence. When you couldn't remember that you needed to eat something or take your medicine and you had to move into assisted living. When you slowly stopped recognizing your family members. When you would tell us grandpa was coming to get you, you just knew it. When you weren't able to tell anyone about the pain in your intestines that finally became too serious a took your life.
I still feel a lot of guilt about those last years. I know I didn't come visit you as often as I should have. It was so hard to watch your children deal with everything that was happening, trying to make care decisions, and dealing with their own grief. By the end, I just couldn't handle seeing you like that. It became too painful for me. To this day, in my work and personal life, I see a bit of you in everyone with Alzheimer's I meet. To say sometimes it's difficult is an understatement.
But now, you inspire me in different ways- to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association so others someday won't have to go through what you did. To advocate for those with the disease and their families to receive the supports they need. I have found a passion and I thank you for that.
I wish you could see our family now- weddings, births, relationships being mended and maintained. We're still a stubborn bunch, but I think (I hope) you'd be proud of us. In fact just recently, I got something that belonged to you:
I'm sad you never got to meet the wonderful man who gave it to me and that you won't be at my wedding in person, but it means so much to me to have your ring. It's reminds me to stay true to my roots and to strike my own path. Of all you've given me and our family, for better and worse, but mostly for better. We miss you.
To support the Alzheimer's Association, the world's leading organization in Alzheimer's care, support, and research, and The Longest Day event, click here. If you'd like to donate to my personal page for The Longest Day (thanks!!!), click here. Your support matters.
Wait a minute- isn't this usually a travel blog? You're right, but for the next three weeks I'm dedicating my little internet real estate to this cause that is near and dear to my heart. I hope it encourages people to share information, stories, and support. Be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don't miss a post and you can also follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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Filed under: Alzheimer's