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Why I'm Fighting Alzheimer's on The Longest Day

Why I'm Fighting Alzheimer's on The Longest Day
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June 18, 2020
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Every day, I tell myself - the things I take for granted, someone else is praying for. My family’s journey of my dad’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, but with the support of family, friends, and the Alzheimer’s Association, we have been able to create memories that will last a lifetime.

I was playing college baseball in 2003 when I received a call that Dad was having memory problems. Over the next several years, we watched his slow decline. Little did I know, his journey with Alzheimer’s disease would lead us to one of the most incredible experiences we’d share together – an experience that would touch others, too.

11896-289932363-custom.jpgYou should know that my dad and I both grew up with baseball in our blood. We both attended Mississippi State University, where Dad played baseball for his beloved Bulldogs.  So, in the summer of 2018, when Mississippi State made the College World Series, I surprised him with tickets to the game in Omaha.  

At this point, he was 15 years into his battle with Alzheimer’s, my mom and I knew he didn’t have much time left with us. So I drove to my parent’s house and recorded his reaction when I dropped the surprise on him. He was ecstatic! Later that day, I shared the video with family and friends on social media. To my surprise, it went viral overnight.

We immediately had national news outlets and sports networks asking for interviews.  People from all over wanted to meet my dad and make his game day experience as special as possible. So many people reached out who had just lost their fathers, saying that following our trip helped them deal with this Father’s Day without theirs.  

The outpouring of love was beyond anything I had imagined and to cap it off, the Mississippi State Bulldogs won the game on a walk-off in the bottom of the 9th inning on Father’s Day. It was like something out of a movie.
Of all the great experiences we had together on that trip, the one that will always stand out to me is the moment we shared over breakfast as we were on our way home. It happened as I watched my dad struggle to put jelly on his sausage biscuit sandwich.  

I could see him fighting to figure out how to set his sandwich down.  He struggled with how to spread the jelly on the bread.  I could see the frustration building on his face. Then he had a moment of striking clarity.  
He looked over at me and said, “I know you’re losing me, but I want you to know that I’ll always love you.”

60283171_10214651490061529_4795142093322321920_n.jpg
I am grateful that his battle connected me to the Alzheimer’s Association. They have been a great resource and comfort for us. The Longest Day has allowed me to turn my pain into action. I compete in obstacle course runs, and it provides me time to think about why I’m doing this – not just for me, but for all those affected by the disease. 

We were able to spend one last Christmas with him, so my daughters could have a few more hugs with their Poppa. In March of this year, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dad passed away, making it even more difficult to say our goodbyes without a memorial service.
The Association has been a great resource and comfort for us during these trying times, and I’m glad I’ve been able to spread awareness of the disease and help fund research for a cure.  As for The Longest Day, I don’t feel like it’s a campaign anymore.  I feel like it’s just a part of me now.  Not only to honor my dad, but also for my family’s future. 


80594415_10104978287633736_5705435183071625216_o-(1).jpgI’d give anything to watch one more baseball game with my dad, or listen to one more of his corny jokes, but I’m grateful we had so much time and wonderful experiences together.  
Which is why I tell myself - the things I take for granted, someone else is praying for. 
 

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The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.

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