Every year during the month of November - Alzheimer's Awareness Month - the Long Island Alzheimer's Foundation (LIAF) holds a candle lighting ceremony to honor those suffering with the disease and the caregivers who care for them, as well as remembering all those we have lost to this disease.
I was invited the day before, and I honestly didn't think I would be able to go because I had been sick the entire week with a very bad sore throat (which a visit to the doctor yesterday revealed tonsillitis and swollen glands). My heart tugged at me though because I wanted to go for Mike. Courtney decided to miss her last class and we decided to go.
As always, the ceremony was beautiful as well as emotional. I had taken Mike to LIAF when he was first diagnosed, but at the time they thought he would fit better in another day program at our local JCC. LIAF's facility is beautiful and they have a wide range of programs for people at different stages of the disease. Their staff has always been kind and welcoming to all.
In the middle of the ceremony, one of the program directors, Alana, went up to the microphone and began talking about our family. Unbeknownst to Courtney and I, they planned a small and touching tribute to Mike, the kids and I for the the advocacy work we do. I have received a number of awards over the years, and they all mean something very special to me, but honestly, this one held a special place in my heart.
I had just been explaining to my co-workers how disappointing it is that the different Alzheimer's organizations we have worked with always seem to be at odds with each other. Although their goal of caring for patients and supporting caregivers are the same, there is always a competition there that sometimes becomes unsettling, to say the least. At this tribute though, Alana had absolutely NO PROBLEM, talking about all the work we have done to raise awareness for ALL organizations - then she began to mention: LIAF, Alzheimer's Foundation of America and the Alzheimer's Association. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. If I had ever heard one organization talking about another, it was always in a derogatory way, but not Alana. She completely understood that we will help any organization, in any capacity we can, if we know it could help someone else struggling with Alzheimer's. Personally, that's what I feel all these organizations should do, but sadly, that's not the case.
Needless to say, I was so surprised, shocked and overwhelmed with emotion, that I couldn't even properly thank the staff at LIAF when we were handed the award - and I felt terrible about that. I thanked those I could afterward and pray that when Alana reads this (I know she will) she will once again express our sincerest appreciation to the staff.
(Courtney and I are pictured with Alana Rosenstein and Fred Jenny)