I spent the summer of my freshman year of high school taking care of my great grandmother who had dementia. We didn’t live near each other growing up, so by the time I was taking care of her, she really didn’t know who I was. Still, she was sweet, loved to take walks and sing songs. She would chat about everything.
But after that summer, I moved to another city and wasn’t able to visit as often. My grandma shared the struggles of taking care of her mom, moving her into a full-time facility, and watching her continue to decline. When she passed away, I was sad that she was gone, but I also felt joy knowing that she was once again whole and at rest from all of the fear and struggle she had to endure.
So, when my father-in-law got the diagnosis of dementia stemming from a series of mini-strokes, I knew where the road would lead. I knew at some point, he wouldn’t know who I was, or who my husband was, his own son. And eventually, I knew that all of his memories would slowly disappear altogether. Even though I had been here before, nothing can completely prepare you for what lies ahead. I had dealt with grief and loss in the past, but this kind of grief was different.
My therapist calls it ambiguous grief. The kind of grief one has when having a loved one with a terminal illness. It settles in long before they physically pass away. Every goodbye could be the last one. You don’t know how fast the decline will be, either mentally or physically. It can cause anxiety, numbness, or both, ebbing and flowing throughout the entire process. And for me, the most important thing I knew about this type of grief is that it shouldn’t be navigated alone.
Then, really by complete chance, I saw an advertisement for the Alzheimer Walk back in 2010. It was going to be at the Dallas Zoo, which sounded like a lot of fun. Plus, I knew that in the coming years, this organization was going to become more and more important to us as a resource and a community. I knew, like with my great-grandmother, that there was going to be a point when I would feel the overwhelming ambiguous grief and complete helplessness. I realized that participating in this cause was something we could do to support not only our families, but everyone who is affected by this disease.
This will be our tenth year to walk. We walk for caretaker support, to provide resources and aid to people like my mother-in-law who are caring for loved ones with this disease. We walk to remember those like my great-grandmother who already passed away. We walk to remember those like my father-in-law who are presently in the grips of Alzheimer’s. We walk for those in the future who will face this disease, that there will not only be better research and medicine, but a complete cure.
Our team is trying to raise $500 dollars, and I’m personally trying to do my part by raising $250. If you are able to help us reach that goal, please click the link below. But even if you can’t support us financially this time around, please keep us in your prayers or happy thoughts as we approach the walk this year. Pray for good weather and that everyone there feels loved and supported, that they aren’t alone in the struggle.