A Walk For Freda

This morning I will be joining in the Walk to End Alzheimer's with about 1,100 other people all of whom will be there because dementia has impacted their life in some way. The weather looks favorable for a good walk in Millennial Park. I know I will see a lot of old friends and work colleagues there and I am looking forward to that. There will be a many smiling faces to greet and likely a lot of shared hugs. It should be a good morning.

One person who will not be there though, is my mother-in-law, Freda, who died after her own journey with dementia. Freda always amazed me. Despite the fact that she never learned to drive and limited her social network to her family, she could literally find a way to complete any project she put her mind to. Over the years, I watched as she wallpapered, painted, built, dug, and planted her way to a home that reflected her so well. She was an amazing decorator, seamstress, baker, and cook. She was also quite an artist. Over the years, we as a family, were forced to stand by and watch as dementia slowly robbed her of these skills. That path was painful and frustrating for all of us and that is why this group will walk today in Grand Rapids and all over the world. The hope that we can find a way to save future generations from a similar fate is paramount to the walk.

The journey through dementia took so much from Freda and from all of us but one thing that she was able to maintain until almost the very end was a sense of belonging. Toward the end of her life, we all gathered for one last Christmas in her home. At one point in the evening, Freda tapped my arm and pointed to one of my nephews and said, "I don't know who that is, but I know he is one of mine." I'll be thinking of her this morning as I walk and be thankful that I got a chance to be a part of what was hers for as long as I did.

Do not ask me to remember,
Don’t try to make me understand,
Let me rest and know you’re with me,
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I’m confused beyond your concept,
I am sad and sick and lost.
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all cost.
Do not lose your patience with me,
Do not scold or curse or cry.
I can’t help the way I’m acting,
Can’t be different though I try.
Just remember that I need you,
That the best of me is gone,
Please don’t fail to stand beside me,
Love me ’til my life is done.
– Owen Darnell


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