Summer Hiking

Summer Hiking
Mt. Constitution

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Alzheimer's Memory Walk

Yesterday I walked with co-workers from Emeritus at Juniper Meadows in the annual Alzheimer's Memory Walk.  Organizers encouraged walkers to choose  a flower.  I chose a purple flower because I've lost loved ones to the disease.  The yellow flowers are for people caring for someone with the disease.

We listened to several speakers talk about research, fundraising opportunities and personal stories.
A gentleman, whose wife lives now at Good Samaritan Village in Moscow, talked about the gradual decline of his wife of 60+ years. He told us how he had to unplug the stove and sleep on the couch because she would get up during the night and he was afraid she would walk out the door.  An organizer said the survivors experience two deaths.  The first one happens when their loved one no longer recognizes them and the second one when the loved one eventually finds peace in heaven.

I took this picture of Greg Neely because he looks so much like our pastor, Father Brad Neely.  He responded, "well I guess there is a resemblance because he's my brother."  Greg led the walk because he raised the most money for the 2011 walk.  He received several awards this year as well, and I noticed he promoted the Walk to End Alzheimer's on Neely Travel's website.   Father Brad shared the personal story of his mother's progression through the Alzheimer's Disease, last week during his homily at St. Stan's.  The gospel from Mark mentioned that the disciples had been discussing among themselves who was the greatest.  Jesus responded to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."  Father Brad suggested that his mother and others who need care are among the greatest in the eyes of Jesus.

And so it is with people and their caregivers.  I consider these folks to be the greatest among us.  I walked to honor the memory of two  such people in my life.  Emilie Pulley, a colleague in the nursing home business, died recently. Her original artwork decorated the walls of the Barn at Guardian Angel Homes where her memorial service was held.  Emilie died at 67, just five years after she retired as the Director of Nursing at Royal Plaza.  The son said at the funeral, "the person who lived here for the past three years was not my Mom.  The mom I knew died when Alzheimer's ravaged her body."  Below is the Emilie I chose to remember on this walk.

The other person I remembered was Frances Fry.  Frances lived in a secured Alzheimer's unit for the last eight years of her life.  She seemed to be a happy little resident, always willing to show off her baby (a doll) or babble about her pretty fingernails.  I couldn't think of Frances without remembering her devoted husband, Harry.  I often saw Harry and Frances at the care center, holding hands and just being together.   When Frances offered the baby doll to me for a kiss she did the same to Harry and he lovingly obliged.  That gesture painted a picture of what Jesus meant when he said "if anyone wishes to be first, he must be the servant of all."  These sweet people showed how to live that gospel message.  Harry and Frances no longer live among us, but enjoy the fruits of their marriage in heaven. 

I've been blogging about working on my archives recently and found this card in a box of sympathy cards sent to me after my Dad died.

Seeing Harry's signature took my breath away.  And he signed Frances' name first!  I don't know, there's just something so special about getting a card from someone like Harry, who I barely knew at the time.  Even now I'm touched that he took the time to send me a card and I'm so grateful I found it this week!

One of the organizers suggested that we take our "flowers" home and plant them in a place where we can continue the memory of people affected by Alzheimer's Disease.

For you Frances and Emilie!

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