It was October…a little chilly with clear skies and lots of Texas sunshine. Microphones were being checked; someone was singing on the stage. We took turns pulling the children through the park in the wagon, searching for the perfect place for a family picture. Chatter and quite laughter filled the air as we watched other families taking their pictures too. We were there to take a long walk together, and memories of other walks scrolled across my mind.
The black and white picture of Mom and me walking together is tucked away in a safe place now. I was a toddler with no thought about where our steps would lead or how my short, chubby legs would keep up. I simply trusted her and held tightly to her hand.
Many more steps followed…steps to the first day of first grade, for instance. I was teary-eyed as Mom held my hand and walked me to the red door with big blue letters – “Welcome to First Grade!”. When my teacher leaned down to greet me, Mom passed my hand to hers, and I knew all would be well.
A few years later, Mom and I waded across the Pecos River…ice-cold water rushing around our feet. Her hand gripped my 10-year-old hand firmly as we stepped from slippery rock to slippery rock, our cautious steps leading us to the campfire where we peeled off soggy socks and warmed our cold, wet feet.
Mom balanced the purple cap on my head and secured the gold tassel in just the right place. We walked into the stadium as the band played the MHS Fight Song, and rambunctious high schoolers laughed and talked, looking for friends and assigned seats. High school graduation was a milestone signaling change on our horizon.
On my wedding day, I walked down the center aisle of our church, firmly holding on to Dad’s elbow. Tears fell from my eyes when I stopped at the pew where Mom stood and handed her a single white rose. When I walked by her again a few minutes later, newly married, Mom knew I was loved and would be taken care of always.
We watched my belly grow each time I was pregnant, our hands feeling for every flip and kick we could find. Mom would take the hands of each of these babies as they grew, protecting them as their walks took them on many short journeys. Years later, she witnessed grandchildren walking across stages to receive diplomas and down aisles to get married…just as she had for me.
More time passed, and Mom wasn’t as surefooted as she had been. Dark spots were splattered like brown paint across the boney hand that held tightly to mine. The weather was just beginning to warm up as we walked down a dirt path near her house, watching for snakes coiled up on warm, flat rocks. We were trading places…now I was watching over her.
Over the years, not all of our walks led to places we wanted to go, of course. There were walks down hospital corridors to visit sick family members, walks through cemeteries as loved ones were buried, walks to say hard goodbyes to people we loved and walks into unknown and strange places…like memory care homes.
A New Walk
So, on this crisp October day, we made our way to the starting point for the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s”. I taped Mom’s picture on the memory wall, beside pictures of others whose memories had betrayed them as well. Unexpected tears trickled down my face.
We walked that day, surrounded by others in purple shirts, whose paths we might never cross again. We all shared this common, uncomfortable bond called Alzheimer’s, and I felt comfort in their midst.
Mom wasn’t there; there was no hand to hold, but sweet memories were safely stored away for this very day.
“So walk in love as Christ loved us, and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2
To learn more about Alzheimer’s, including details about the disease, support, and local resources, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website – www.alz.org. Also found here is a 24/7 helpline – 800-272-3900.
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