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I posted this last year... I don't think I've posted it again this year. I was going to, but got distracted and don't think I ever got around to it. So before we look at some old pictures, let's take a look at an old post (from last year)...
As I told you on Monday, I was asked a few weeks ago to provide a picture and a few lines on why I walk to the Alzheimer’s Association for them to use in an advertisement they were going to run in the Charleston City Paper. And like I told you on Monday, this wasn’t as easy a thing to do as I thought it would be. The picture was easy… I had a good team picture from last year and while my cousin Susan won’t be joining us at the Walk this year, she did donate this year so I had no problem including her. But the question of why I walk kind of threw me… because I’d never really thought of why I was doing this. And let me go ahead and say that they asked me why I walk, but I turned it into why my team walks… so I spoke for the team without really asking any of them their opinion, but hopefully they are fine with what I said. I feel I should also tell you that the more I thought about it, the more I realized the hard part might not be coming up with a few lines… the hard part might be coming up with only a few lines. I was limited with what I could say to them due to space, but there is no such limitation here. Therefore, today I would like to expand somewhat on why I (and possibly my team) participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
If you go to enough weddings you’ll realize that 1 Corinthians 13 is used in nearly all of them. It’s a great chapter and possibly one of the best parts of any of Paul’s letters, but I fear that it is only thought of as a “wedding” chapter. We read it at weddings and maybe dust it off for anniversaries, but never really think of it at other times (or in ways not marriage related). By the way, before I forget, I know different versions of the Bible have different words, so for the purpose of this I am thinking of the NIV. Anyway, the whole chapter is great… but one of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” And so when I was asked to share why I walk and was having trouble figuring it out… I decided to pray about it. The more I prayed and the more I thought about it, the more I kept thinking of this verse. Maybe it’s just because the Olympics have been going on, but I kept thinking love is the main reason… but faith and hope are also on the medal stand. Know what I mean? Just because Love gets the gold doesn’t mean Faith and Hope should be forgotten… they are still important. And so that is where I started.
Faith. As I told you before, this will be my 10th year participating in this Walk. Back when I started, it was called the Memory Walk and at some point (it probably took me a couple of years to notice) it changed to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Ten years is a long time. It’s longer than I’ve held any one job. It’s way longer than a lot of marriages. I don’t think you do something this long for shits and giggles (as the kids say… not my kids, but your kids [with their potty mouths]). Why am I still doing this? Because like George Michael, I gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith (though I feel our faiths were for different things). Yes, I have faith that this is making a difference. I have faith that the money I raise matters and that maybe, just maybe, someone will see me doing this and think “What’s all this Alzheimer’s stuff about?” and they will learn about it and they will start focusing on it. I don’t know… maybe they will see one of the 50 or so pictures I’ve posted here or on Facebook and like it and talk about it at home and their children will hear it and decide they want to grow up and be a doctor or scientist and years later they will figure out the cure. That’s crazy, right? What are the odds? Well, Al Michaels once asked me if I believed in miracles… and like Al Michaels I yelled “YES!” Maybe it is crazy… hell, maybe I’m crazy, but I haven’t been doing this for this long for nothing. I would love for this to be my last Walk. I would love for a cure to be found before the Walk next year… but if that doesn’t happen, I’ll be back next year doing it all over again.
Why do I walk? Because I have hope that a cure will be found soon. Hope is a powerful thing. It’s a good thing. A great example of this is Winston Churchill in the early days of WWII when many around the world had lost hope and it looked like Nazi Germany was going to conquer everyone. It’s easy to look back now and think well of course Churchill said those things, the Allies crushed Germany. But think back to May 13, 1940 when German forces were doing whatever they wanted with little to no resistance… The US was still sitting on the sidelines… and Churchill in his first speech as Prime Minister says,
“I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. This is our policy. You ask, what is our aim?
I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, there is no survival.”
A lot of people were wanting to give up… and Churchill starts talking about victory?!?! Less than a month later, after a defeat so bad that the fact that they were able to rescue part of the army from Dunkirk was seen as a huge victory, Churchill again gets on the radio and says,
“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
Again, at this point in time it wasn’t a matter of if Germany would defeat Britain, but when. If ever there was a time of “no hope” this was it… and there stood Churchill figuratively (and quite possibly literally) shooting the bird at Germany. Why is this important? Because it gave people hope. It let them know that all was not lost. It’s easy when dealing with a disease like Alzheimer’s that, so far, has no cure to lose hope. It’s easy to give up and think a cure can’t be found. But I walk because I have not lost that hope. I walk because I will not lose that hope. Hope, in a way, goes hand in hand with Faith. I know a cure will be found. I have faith a cure will be found. My Hope is that it will be found soon. But even if it isn’t found today or tomorrow or this year… I will not lose hope that this next experimental drug will be the one. I have seen people in clinical trials lose hope because the drug that was being tested “failed”. What I wanted to tell them, but never had the nerve to do it is “DON’T GIVE UP!” This is a short-term failure, but it still moves us one step closer to a cure. We can now scratch that one off the list and move on to the next theory. I go back to Winston Churchill (whose words I love reading almost as much as I love reading Paul’s) and his quote that “Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” Jimmy V may have been talking about fighting cancer when he said this but it’s true for Alzheimer’s, too… Don’t give up… Don’t ever give up. It is this hope that a cure is right around the corner that keeps me walking.
And now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is love. And so it is. Like the Dream Team in ’92, Katie Ledecky in the women’s 800-meter freestyle or Usain Bolt in a race… Love crushes the competition. Don’t get me wrong… Faith and Hope are important. Like I said, they’re up there on the medal stand. But they were always fighting for the Silver Medal. Love had the Gold locked up before the competition even started. Love, you see, is what keeps my faith strong. Love is what keeps me from losing hope. I have lived what you could call a lucky life. I’ve been very fortunate for many reasons (too many to talk about right now)… one of these is when I got a job working in an office that focused on Alzheimer’s research. Here’s the thing, I wasn’t looking for a job in Alzheimer’s research. I was just looking for a job (any job) with this organization. It’s not that I had a bad job at the time. I actually had a very good job, but it was in retail and I was ready to move away from retail. So I decided I wanted to work at this other place and I started applying for every job that looked interesting to me. It probably took about 5 or 6 months… along the way I had an interview or two here or there but nothing ever came from it. Then one day I interviewed with a couple of ladies and thought it went great. I waited a few days and then one of them sent me an email letting me know that they really liked me… but I didn’t get the job. She went on to tell me that she knew of a position opening up that she thought I would be good for and that I should keep an eye out for it and apply. Well, a few days later two very similar positions opened up so I applied for both of them. A couple of weeks later I got a call asking me to come in for an interview. To make a long story short, I was too embarrassed to ask which job I was coming in to interview for… so it wasn’t until after I got the job that I realized which one it was. (I found out years later the main reason I got the job was that the lady who interviewed me had trouble hearing and of all the people she interviewed for the job, I was the only one who spoke loudly and clearly enough for her to hear and understand what was being said!). Anyway, I was hired as a Fiscal Technician II for this group that did Alzheimer’s research. Fiscal Tech… I was a numbers guy working with numbers… getting away from people because people (especially people I don’t know) can bother me (often through no real fault of their own). Well… my desk in this new job was near the front of the office (by the waiting room). At times I was given the task of sitting with Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So while their caregiver was taken back and interviewed as part of the study... You see, Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So were so far along with Alzheimer’s that there was fear they may forget why they were there and simply get up and leave. Sometimes I was sent to sit with them because they had driven to our office on their own without their loved one knowing about it. So my task was to sit and talk with them until their caregiver could come pick them up. Do you understand how hard that is to do for someone who can’t stand talking to strangers?! For some reason, though, I seemed to be good at it. I can’t explain it… fact is I decided early on not to question it… I just accepted it. These were nice people, to me at least. I know odds are some of them were probably a-holes at some time in their life, but as we sat and talked, they were nice people. They just wanted to tell me about their children or grandchildren or brothers and sisters or parents and grandparents. They would talk about long-gone relatives as if they had just seen them and would get frustrated when they had trouble remembering the names of some of their closest friends… but all in all they were just happy to have someone to talk to. I usually wouldn’t say much (I didn’t really trust myself to say the right thing… and by that, I mean I was scared I’d say something like: “I’ve got a brother who didn’t talk for the first 22 years of his life. No kidding… when I found out he was engaged I said ‘B-llsh!t… he’s never said that many words [will you marry me] to one person at one time in his whole life!’” I still think that would have gotten me a laugh, but I didn’t think it was appropriate for some reason) just enough to keep them happy and talking. If push came to shove, I would pull out a picture of Mary Ruth (and later Susie). She was a cute baby and people in general seem to like looking at pictures of cute babies. Mind you, I wasn’t called on to do this a ton of times, but I did it enough that I was able to see the love these people had for their friends and family and the love their caregivers had for them. Along the way I guess I developed a love for them as well. As I’ve said before, I’ve lived a lucky life and part of that (which I hope to talk about another day) is that I had a chance to know 3 of my 4 grandparents. Not only that, but I loved them all. A lot of people, I’ve found out over the years, never knew any of their grandparents. So when I see a person with Alzheimer’s I not only think about them and their spouse and their children… I also think about their grandchildren. My God… What would my life be like now if I hadn’t had a chance to hear Da’s stories when I was growing up? What about all of the times me and Louis spent the night with Granny (at Aunt Sister’s house and later at her apartment)? Where would I be now if I hadn’t been lucky enough to spend time with MaMa? Are you kidding me? I can’t even think about it. My life without them in it would be completely different (and not in a good way). So I walk so that other grandchildren will have a chance to know their grandparents the way I got to know mine.