When a life fades away
This is my grandfather Allan taking a break on one of the last walks we ever took together. His is one of millions of minds and life stories affected by Alzheimer’s.
“It’s probably nothing – or is it?”
It started very typically with difficulty in remembering recent events. I had just turned 18 and he asked me if I had passed the tests for getting my driver’s license yet. Strange, I thought. He had always cared about what was going on in my life, how could he have forgotten that I passed the tests a month ago? The next time we met, he asked me the same question. And this happened over and over. Grandma was worried. He forgot appointments, where he put his keys and couldn’t remember what she just had told him, but we all hoped that it was just temporary “senior moments” and not Alzheimer’s. After all, he was over 70 years old.
A long wait for the inevitable
Unfortunately, it got worse. A couple of years later he wasn’t able to drive anymore. It became clear when he was driving to my parents’ house and stopped two blocks away, completely confused of his whereabouts. At home, he would turn on the stove with empty saucepans on it and grandma had to endure his mood swings and episodes of aggression. He needed constant supervision and my grandmothers care wasn’t enough. The last years he couldn’t get dressed or eat by himself and at the end he couldn’t even walk or talk. It got to the point where it was too painful for my grandmother to visit him at the long-term care home. However, my parents never gave up on him and visited him at least twice a month, even if it was a long drive. The first years after he moved permanently to the home, I went with them. But when he didn’t know who I was anymore, I stopped visiting. At the time I told myself it was ok since the person I had grown up so close to, was not mentally present anymore. I wanted to remember him as the kind and caring person he used to be and the fun we had together with my dad, playing for hours without them getting bored with all my ideas. Times when we all were truly alive. Today, knowing what I know about the positive effects familiarity has for Alzheimer’s patients, I would have continued my visits. He passed away in 2004, twelve long years after showing the first signs.
For some, the physical death means the end of the story. But for those of you who believe in an afterlife, I want to share the message he left for me through a medium a few years after his passing. After showing detailed evidence of who he was, he wanted to let me know that the years he wasn’t contactable didn’t matter anymore. It’s like they never existed. No sorrow, no painful memories. It was all gone.
I was grateful to hear it and choose to believe it. He may have faded away physically, but the memories of him are bright and crystal clear in my mind as is his spirit.
To contribute to the cause, please donate to any of your national organisations.
In the US you can visit Alzheimer’s association and in Sweden: Demensförbundet
To share your story of a loved one on social media in September, the World Alzheimer’s month, use #RememberMe