And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
Today Dad would have turned 85. Although he didn’t darken the doors of a church very often in his lifetime, he enjoyed singing some of the old-time hymns, and he lived his life loving others and doing whatever he could to help someone in need.
A generous, hard-working, intelligent man with just an eighth-grade education, Dad went to work at a young age to help support his family. Later while serving in the U.S. Navy, he would keep a minimal amount of his monthly pay, sending the rest home to his parents. Sending money home to his parents, buying his little sister a dress for her eighth-grade graduation, caring for his dad up until his death and even providing a home for his older brother who needed a place to live, Dad lived a life of extravagant generosity.
His generosity extended beyond family too. He often donated his time and money to worthy causes and would even extend a helping hand to strangers. I remember the time he loaned his car to a complete stranger; he was an honest man and expected the same of those he encountered.
My home is full of treasured keepsakes from Dad – all with a story to tell like the Navy locket I keep safely under a glass-top table. It is a constant reminder of the amazing love he had for his little sister who tragically died in a car accident at the age of 15. Her death was hard on him, and he often talked of the time he said she came to him and told him she was fine and that she didn’t want him being sad any more. He cried every time he told me this story.
As the Alzheimer’s began to steal his memories away, he would often ask about family members who had long since passed. He asked how they were, if I had seen them lately, and he wanted to go visit them. Knowing those he loved so deeply welcomed him at the gates of heaven gives me peace. Their reunion actually makes me happy, and as much as I miss him, I know he is happy.
Currently more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and millions more are faced with the financial and emotional challenges of caring for a loved one with this disease. If current trends continue, Alzheimer’s will bankrupt families, communities and our healthcare system, and cause many more families to endure the heartbreak of watching a loved one slowly slip away right before their eyes.
But there is something we can do to stop this devastating disease. We can walk together to end Alzheimer’s by supporting the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s®.
The Alzheimer’s Association®, the leading voluntary organization in Alzheimer research, care and support, is dedicated to finding prevention methods, treatments and an eventual cure for the disease. I support the Alzheimer’s Association because I know how important these resources are; I turned to the Alzheimer’s Association several times while I took this journey with Dad.
Would you please consider making a donation? You may visit my online fundraising site to learn more and make a donation, or you can mail your donation using the donation form. No amount is too small; every dollar counts, so please consider supporting this cause. Checks should be made payable to the Alzheimer’s Association, and your donation is tax-deductible. You may also be able to double your donation if your employer has a matching gift program. Find out by visiting www.matchinggifts.com/walk/.
Although the disease robbed Dad of his memories, it could not steal our love for each other away. Because of that love, we were able to enjoy many happy times together during his last year of life. If you are facing a similar journey, I hope our stories encourage you. While living with this disease, it is important for you and your loved one to do just that: live. Thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association, Dad and I did. You can too.
Thank you to family and friends, thank you to SIUE students, thank you to members of the SIUE Chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America for joining in the fight, and thank you in advance to all who donate to the cause. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.