"The Alzheimer's Ski Trail - Skiing Mount Oblivion"
- Published on Monday, 25 February 2013 15:14
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
Alzheimer’s is the only disease of the 15 “Leading Causes of Death” on the mortality tables in which the rate continues to increase, has no cure and is always terminal…in a way the relentless progress of this disease can be compared to that of a long downhill “ski trail” that eventually goes over a cliff that ends one's life.
As the “Ski Lift of Life” drops the victim of Alzheimer’s off of the lift and onto an Alzheimer’s ski trail on top of Mount Oblivion, there is no turning back.
One is locked onto their skis and onto the downhill slope’s trail…a slope and a trail that no one can escape from.
In the beginning the Alzheimer’s trail and journey is a very gradual downhill slope, almost like a slightly inclined plateau…one’s forward movement is at a slow, somewhat comfortable and gradual pace…
At first, the scenery, the surroundings and the friends observed along the Alzheimer’s trail may be pleasant and life may not appear all that grim…
On the distant horizon however, a cloud of darkness can be seen…far ahead the trail’s slope and angle gradually increases and then suddenly disappears over the brow of the distant hill’s edge…
Eventually as the Alzheimer’s trail quickens, and the scenery darkens, the friends disappear…the surrounding appear alien, only ominous strangers can be seen along the trail…feelings of anxiety and confusion rush in…
The pace continues to accelerate but one cannot escape the skis or the downward sloping Alzheimer’s trail…
Ahead the trail again steepens and disappears into a dark cloud and a forest of darkness…
Isolation, loneliness and fear take control of the mind…
As the trail disappears rapidly into the darkness, the Alzheimer’s skier’s eyes are closed in an effort to shut out an alien and frightening outside world…
Suddenly the trail pitches over the cliff of life as one plummets in death’s final free fall at the Alzheimer’s trail ending.
And so another life is lost…Just one of the daily hundreds of lives that are lost to this most cruel and frightening of the diseases. The trail is long and relentless and averages 8 years from diagnosis to termination…death is always the finale…no one has ever returned from their journey into the shadows of Alzheimer’s.
Postscript: In my mind there is another chapter to this story and another ending for our loved one’s who pass on from this dread disease…I like to think that my wife June and the other victim’s of this terrible disease are caught up by Angels at the moment that they plummet through the dark cloud of death…Angels in a bright and a beautiful world and they are carried and ushered into the presence of Jesus who will greet them and show them their mansion in that glory land called Heaven…
“in my father’s house are many mansions:...I go to prepare a place for you...”
John 14:2 (KJV)
While we miss our loved ones more than words can tell, some day the family circle will be again be unbroken, at the time when we also go to join them…those who passed from Alzheimer’s will no longer have this terrible disease…The final and last book of God’s Bible (Revelations) promises us:
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
Revelations 21: 4 (KJV)
June's Alzheimer's Ski Trail down Mount Oblivion
June’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis came in January 1998 after noting short term memory problems in 1997...June a frequent visitor in nursing homes, knew at a very early date, the blackness and the depth of the distant approaching Alzheimer’s storm clouds. June displayed a concern for me. I remember well that Sunday (Ca. 1999) when she brought home the “Care Notes” pamphlet from our church - “Handling Grief as a Man.” June said nothing; just left it out for me to find and to read. I remember the time that she detected one of my episodes of emotional sadness as I watched her illness progress. June tried to console me by saying “Don’t worry, I will be alright Stan!” I am sure at the time, we both really knew otherwise.
Thereafter, I slowly lost June, tear drop by tear drop during her long and exhausting journey into the shadows of Alzheimer’s that lasted almost 12 years.
For the first eight (8) plus years I took care of June at our home. The first 6 (six) of these years were relatively easy years that only required accommodation for her short term memory problems. We continued to travel extensively and did the many things we had put off in past years. We completed our bucket list...In Years 7 and 8 the disease started closing in on us as we saw June’s personality changes and eventually hallucinations and behavioral changes. In year 9, June went into a nursing home. As the disease progressed she had seizures, lost ability to walk or talk, or even smile...she had difficulty swallowing, eating, and became incontinent.
During the last year and a half, she rarely opened her eyes or even responded. Aspiration pneumonia a common Alzheimer’s complication ended her life.
June gave me a lifetime of unconditional love during our 56 year’s marriage and a life with only the regret that it is now over and that June has had to suffer the horrors of Alzheimer's.
I owe June and God an unending debt! June's passing was as if a most beautiful symphony that played during our life together, had now ceased to exist!
Before June's Alzheimer's diagnosis our world and her character and personality were represented by a vast sea of bright and beautiful lights. After her Alzheimer's diagnosis, these bright lights all begin to slowly dim. As June slowly slipped deeper into the shadows of Alzheimer's, these lights gradually flickered out one by one. Eventually the time came during the last two years of June's life, when the brightness that marked our world and her life was replaced by one of darkness.
In the last year, June rarely ever opened her eyes to a world that was then alien and strange to her. June had become so tired and exhausted that in the last months of her life she lay like a wounded and weary soldier on a battlefield. Early one morning June felt God's gentle touch on her shoulder and heard the words? "come home June!"
God mercifully took June home on the 23rd of October 2008. June's passing leaves me with an emptiness that can never be filled!...and a feeling of gratitude that can never be fully expressed...
Bridie Breen - Manchester, United Kingdom - (3 January 2014): "Stan I truly hope there will be a cure to halt the disease in its tracks. Soonest is best."
Gail Devereux-Batchelor - United Kingdom - (4 January 2014): "A beautiful description of this terrible journey through Alzheimer's ."
Marsha McKneely Ault - Nacogdoches, Texas - (4 January 2014): "Grateful for your post script of being welcomed home in the arms of the Savior..."
Alzheimer Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, Inc. - Mount Pearl, Canada - (8 January 2014): "Very interesting outlook, thank you so much for sharing! -Amelia White, Events Coordinator."
After an almost 12 year journey into the shadows of Alzheimer's, early one morning in late October 2008, an exhausted June felt God's gentle touch on her shoulder and heard the words: "Come Home June!" As June lay like a wounded soldier on a battlefield, it was God's Angels that ushered June into a Heavenly Kingdom to the sound of a chorus of Angels...and into June's new home, a "Mansion on the Hilltop", where there is no pain, nor illness nor tears...June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website in the drop down menu under the "In Memoriam" label - just Click on: