A couple of weeks ago I was part of the planning team for an event called Ales to Alz. It is an annual Happy Hour event that raises money for the local Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin. It was HUGE. 250 people attended and we raised more than $40,000! The turnout was incredible, the sponsors were generous and the night was a massive success.
Part of the plan was for me to speak to the crowd. I stood on a chair in the packed room with a microphone and a shaky voice. It shouldn’t have been a big deal for me; I have spoken on a stage numerous times but never about the impact Alzheimer’s has on our family. Never about my Mom. Once my courage bubbled up and calmed my voice (kind of), I spoke.
I spoke about the importance of creating a community where we are actively trying to eliminate the stigmas attached to this disease.
The stigmas make everything worse.
I spoke about the many people in the early and mid stages of Alzheimer’s and Dementia that deserve to feel accepted and safe out in the world. The only way for that to happen is for us to educate ourselves and learn how we can create welcoming environments for those living with Alzheimer’s.
I spoke about the power of knowledge and resources for the caregivers and the value of the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin for the family.
What I didn’t speak about is what it’s like living with the secret. It’s one thing to navigate this disease and it’s progression within our family…and quite another to navigate it out in the world.
Many times it stays a secret for too long.
It’s the secret that keeps us from getting the support we desperately need.
It’s the secret that makes us feel disconnected, isolated and alone.
It’s the secret that keeps us from accessing the resources that are most valuable to the person with Alzheimer’s, to the caregiver, and to the family.
It’s the secret that makes us feel out of alignment with our true selves.
The fundraising event wasn’t just about raising money, it was a night to come out of the dark with our secrets.
It was a night where people could talk to each other about how the disease has affected them and their loved ones.
It was a night to say, “I see you. I know this sucks. I’m here if you need anything.”
It was a night to share and support and celebrate the magic that happens when community comes together. It showed us how much stronger we can be together.
Lynn Holley is the force behind this annual event. She became a helpful resource, and more importantly, a treasured friend, when I was finally able to tell our secret. Because of her courage speaking out about her husband’s journey along with my ability to tap into the resources at the Alliance, I am a better daughter to my Mom. I am a better human being. I am embracing instead of fighting against this disease.
Now, I am able to accept the hugs and the questions of concern. I appreciate the insight that others offer me and the empathy. I’ve learned to allow others to love me and my Mom where we are at and with what is really going on because our truth matters. Our community matters. It makes that big of a difference.
No more secrets. I will keep telling the stories, sharing the heartache, and spreading the pure love and presence we experience.
Doing so helps me heal, connect, and live in alignment with my highest purpose.