Throughout the years, Danny Burrell has written amazing poems and thoughts about his dad's journey through Alzheimer's.
The man and the boy walk. Slow steps, long pauses. Where there once was conversation there is now silence.
The father and the son walk. Slow steps, long pauses. Roles reversed, the son protects the father, guarding for obstacles, helping to interpret the confusing world.
The dad and the son walk. Slow steps, long pauses. The dad serene, appreciating the sunshine on his face, the breeze through his fingers, the son struggling with the wrongness of the disease that is slowly robbing him of his hero.
The dad and his son journey. Slow steps, long pauses. The dad on his journey deeper into the illness, recognition of loved ones fading, his grasp of thoughts loosening, his once great joy with the world, reverting to slow confusion. The son on his journey to understanding but never ever accepting the harsh reality presented. Damn the disease.
The son is told, … I am told, that slow steps of research hampered by long pauses in funding will hopefully someday find help. Not soon enough; damn this Alzheimer’s.
The man and the boy sit. The setting sun on their faces. The light is there but no longer illuminating, no longer giving warmth. The boy trying to find images, finding only fading traces. The man no longer squinting. No need to fight the dark, content in his chair to wait. The son not yet.
The man and the boy sit. Sun setting too soon. The man still. The man still? The boy asks who sits before him. The man? With his memories gone is the man gone too?
The boy knows that the sun will set. Tears and prayers are not enough to stop it from slipping below the lingering horizon. The damn disease winning. The boy remembers the brightness of the man. Shining leading strong and warm and being all to the son. Now fading.
The boy looks for the shadows that must remain. Finding none, he is confused. Where are they all, the memories of the man and the love? No longer in the man, but where, damn it where?
The father and the son sit. The setting sun soft on the father's face. Settling the son finds the light. Not in the past, not in the corners of rooms or memories ill lit. Within the boy. Any smile, any problem challenged, sails set tight, kites flown proud, child listened to, jokes shared are where the memories and the man reside. Within the son. The touch of the man’s light is within. Always.
The man and the boy sit. The setting sun moves toward night. The man sits and the boy sighs.
Now and Forever… Sept 27, 2015
The boy still sits. The man is gone
The boy sits still. His hero is free
The son sits. By himself, but not alone.
Others gather with him. And in each of them, a shard, or fragment. A sliver or nugget of the man’s warmth, wisdom and light. Together we have not the whole but the essence. And that may not be enough, but it will suffice. We will be.
With each day the shadow of the disease fades. The fight against it will remain. But the awful effect on our hero has passed.
The boy stands. Now he can bury the disease and is free to remember the man.
Maybe like you, sometimes I forget, and that’s ok; but then I remember. I forget someone’s name, or where I put my gloves or why I am standing in the kitchen. And they tell me that is ok. But then I remember.
I forget why I saved all the stuff in the basement, why it was important. I forget to pick up cauliflower, to phone my mom, where I put my gloves. And that is ok. Normal right? But then I remember.
I remember the pain, the fear, the frustration. I remember the discussions and the arguments and the despair. I remember the erosion of a hero.
I remember that my dad died from Alzheimer’s. I remember that there is no cure. Then I worry and fret. Maybe forgetting is the start. Maybe it will be me. And if not me, who?
But then I remember. I remember that there is research happening. Research that is everyday getting closer to understanding this damn disease and getting closer to finding treatments to slow or curb its horrifying effects.
I need your help. We need your help.
There is a hockey tournament in April. Some true NHL hockey heroes have volunteered their time to play among us amateurs in the effort to raise awareness and money to fight this horrible disease that affects so many of our lives. I am reaching out to you to sponsor me and to pass this email onto others that may donate.
Sponsor before you forget.
In a way, I am lucky. My father no longer has Alzheimer's. He is free of the disease. I am released the jagged harshness of the erosion of my hero. Free now to remember his kindness, strength and love.
Where I am lucky, others are not. Their sentence into this awful journey is beginning or yet to begin. Although we do not know who they are or if you or I are among them, it is for them that I write this plea.
We need to find a different cure then my father's. A slow sad predictable death should not be the only outcome for my hero and yours.
There are wise, dedicated people working on cures, strategies and treatments. As we might need their help, they need your support now. Your support will help. You support will get us closer.
There is a hockey tournament in April. Some true NHL hockey heroes have agreed to play among us amateurs in the effort to raise awareness and money to fight this horrible disease that affects so many of our lives. I am reaching out to you to sponsor me and to pass this email onto others that may donate.
Every dollar raised will support the Alzheimer Society of Alberta & NWT and will fund cutting-edge Alberta-based research that is helping to find new and better treatments, and ultimately a cure, for this debilitating disease. Our goal for this year’s event is to raise $1 million to support the more than 46,000 Albertans living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.