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Caretaker, Family Life, Hope, Inspiration, Purpose, Uncategorized

October 17, 2023

Our memories matter.

Mom (Melanie) and I before our first Walk to End Alzheimer’s in 2013.

Grief is a funny thing. One minute you are a woman confidently walking through a place that you feel at home and the next minute you are sobbing in the Atlanta airport.

My sweet mama has been gone for four years. But her mind was gone long before that. Our biggest fears were confirmed when she was only 60 years old. Early Onset Alzheimer’s. We were honestly shocked at the diagnosis because of her age. It was also a welcome reprieve. She had slowly become a person that wasn’t recognizable. Severe anxiety, forgetting to care for her beloved pet, hoarding, the inability to do normal daily tasks and more were giving us red flags. At the time, there weren’t many people we knew that had the disease this early, so we faced many uphill battles. Because she was so young her activity level was much higher than everyone in the facilities that she lived in. This would bring about a new level of care because she needed more care than her neighbors who were mostly 80+. She was the age of the adult children that would come to see their parents. I can confidently say I was also the only child of a parent who was struggling to get in and out of facilities with three children under the age of three. I remember crying out to God so many times in anguish because I had no clue how to raise these small humans that we created and also give my mother the attention that she now needed with Alzheimers. Our weekly visits always ended with me holding in sobs as I watched my mom slowly disappear. My children had no idea that this wasn’t “normal” as they had only known their Grandma with the disease. When my oldest was a toddler, she started to understand a little that my mom was a bit different. Mom took her snacks with no remorse and did laps around her facility because her 60+ year body was still active. Very slowly the disease progressed as we had first steps in facilities, hospital visits from falls with nursing babies attached to me, and late-night calls in which I would have to run to mom’s aid.

As I walked through the Atlanta airport last week on the way to a writing retreat in Tennessee I was suddenly hit with a memory. One of a younger version of me, walking through the airport with my mom as she delivered me to my gate that would fly me across the country to my dad in Texas. The joke was always that my gate was without fail, at the end of whatever terminal I would be in. As I looked ahead for gate number 36, I realized it was at the end. I stopped and immediately started sobbing out of nowhere as I mourned for Mom and those days. What I wouldn’t give to be in the same airport with her still on this planet. Hard stuff.

My beautiful Mom didn’t deserve the fate she was given as she battled Alzheimer’s. She went to be with Jesus three days after she turned 69. The disease slowly took every part of my mom. To her ability to speak, walk, and eventually swallow and breathe. It was devastation and a slow goodbye that I would have never asked for.

This weekend is the San Antonio Walk to End Alzheimers and our team, Melanies Memories Matter will be walking in honor of my mama, my grandfather and so many others who have suffered the fate of this terrible disease. I would not have chosen this story for us, but I promised my sweet mama that I would fight for as long as I was able. To raise awareness of our story, how common Early onset is becoming, and to raise money to find a cure in my children’s lifetime.

Visit the link for more of our story and how you can partner with us to End Alzheimer’s once and for all! http://act.alz.org/goto/Melaniesmemoriesmatter

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