By: Rebecca Taylor

 

**Previously published by Write On! In June 2008.**

 

March 7, 20_____

 

Dear Family:

 

If you have found this letter, it means that my disease has finally caught up with me. I am writing this now because I do not know what the future holds for me. As you know, I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last month and I want you to know these things if I become unable to say them too, on paper they may be more tangible to you all. If my disease causes my mind to forget who you are, don’t forget that I love you and somewhere in my heart I know it too even though I am unable to communicate this to you. You have all made my life so special and even though I probably won’t remember all of the precious memories, you should all hold them very dear. Please tell me about them, I want to know who I am even though I am unable of saying it. Please surround me with mementos of my life, not this part of it. Hopefully I have been able to spend many years since the diagnosis; the doctors have put me on medication which will hopefully slow the effects. Please forgive me anything I may say or do which may cause you pain, it is not me, it is my disease which causes me to speak or act this way, the last thing I want to do is hurt you. I could ramble on for days; however, I have put the most important thoughts to paper. Remember no matter what that you are all family and that no matter what should happen you need to be together for each other.

 

Lovingly yours,

 

Janie Ann Bonner

Your wife and mother

 

Three and a half years later Laura Bonner read the letter written by her mother upon the diagnosis of her illness and tears came to her eyes, she passed it to her sister Joy and the letter went to their father. It had been a very hard week for everyone involved. Janie Ann had been placed in a nursing home where the staff was qualified to care for her and her illness. They would care for her every need and include her in a variety of activities. Like all patients with Alzheimer’s, Janie had her good days and her bad ones. The family, Janie’s two daughters and her husband Carlos had tried caring for her in her own home but it was no longer safe or possible. They could not leave her unattended for a moment for fear she may get outside or touch something like the stove and burn her hand. Both girls had jobs and it was too much for one man to keep a constant eye on his wife every moment of the day. They knew it was for the best and after reading the letter, they knew that no matter what Janie may be saying she didn’t really blame them for what they had to do. Days passed and everyone had their ups and downs, cherishing the good days and trying to put the bad ones behind them. The girls and Carlos attended Alzheimer’s awareness meetings where they met many others in situations similar to theirs. This strength and togetherness persuaded them to read the letter aloud one day at a meeting. This led members of their meetings to start speaking out about Alzheimer’s, the importance of early detection if any of the symptoms appeared. Being together with others in the same situation helped them, as they knew they were not alone. They could say things which most people would never understand, as you have to experience it to really know how it feels. The Bonners and their support group hope that one-day research will be able to better explain this disease and find a way to not only prolong it but also if possible cure it. They believe that as long as you have faith, anything is possible. 

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