November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. I first became acquainted with the term, “Alzheimer’s” in the early 2000. Fifteen years later, I am saddened by its rapid spread and how everyone I know has been directly or indirectly affected by this horrific disease. According to the National Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures, “every 67 seconds, someone in the United States develops the disease.” While deaths attributed to heart disease, stroke and prostate cancer have decreased between the years 2000 and 2013, deaths associated with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) have increased by 71%.
The memories of seeing my father’s mind and body deteriorate for ten years, still haunt me to this day. But, I try to focus on the good and loving times when I’d hug him, tell him how much I loved him, and thanked him for being a wonderful father. Although he didn’t have the ability to physically respond back, I was convinced I could send him loving thoughts (telepathically?) by looking deep into his eyes for long periods of time. My mother and his doctors insisted that his mind was gone. Call me crazy, but, in my heart, I felt that whenever our eyes met, he understood my thoughts. Impossible? Not really and here’s my proof!
On February 8 of 2008, my dad needed to get a catheter inserted. The procedure was normally done by our home health nurse, but on this day, she was off and the new nurse was not familiar with my dad’s case. After numerous unsuccessful tries, Mom called me and we agreed it was best to take Dad to the Emergency Room (ER) for the procedure. I told her I would meet up with her and my dad at the entrance. When mom and the home health nurse arrived, I instructed them to wait at the nurse’s station while I followed the paramedics that were transporting my dad into a treatment room. They transferred my dad from the stretcher to the gurney and left.
With no one in sight, the room became quiet, an anomaly at any ER. Inspired by God and a need to say goodbye, I held my dad’s hands, looked into his eyes, and whispered, “Dad, it’s okay for you to let go. You’ve suffered enough. You do not have worry about us. I’ll take good care of Mom.” And, with my mind, I reassured him that he was ready and that one day, we would meet again. My trance was suddenly interrupted by my mother’s voice and background noise from the chaotic environment. But, I felt at peace and now am certain that he received my message. Later that evening, he let go and passed away.
After his passing, I kept thinking about his “blank” stares and what he would say. Those memories inspired me to write the poem, “Inside My Eyes”. The day he died, I concluded that while AD can stripe your body and mind from life and dignity, it cannot destroy the spiritual connection between two people that truly love each other. Here’s looking at you Dad!
Today, I’m taking off my shades
So you can see inside my eyes
Can you tell me who is there?
And tell them to keep shining their soothing light?
In the distance I see the reflection of my old self
Trying to hold on to the memories of how I used to be
Productive, loving, positive and helpful
Don’t get me wrong, because I’m still me
And though many people have come and are now gone
Perhaps because they’re scared or just overwhelmed with their own
All I can do is to pray and send blessings their way
And hope they will only have nice things to say
So I’m taking off my shades
And summoning the courage I have left
To give you a last glimpse into who I really am
But I beg you to hurry
For I know I’m running out of time
As tomorrow those who shine the light
May forget to come
Forcing me back into the darkness of my shades
Until the day when my memories will forever be gone
But don’t worry my dear child, for when your time is done
I’ll look for you until I find you and once again, embrace you in my arms.