I keep meeting new family members.
The physical therapist nodded sympathetically when I explained how I’d neglected my health the last couple years as I was caring for my parents at the end of their lives. “I know,” he said. “It’s so hard, isn’t it? And then you miss them so much.”
“Yes. It’s been hard. And my mom had Alzheimer’s so I was very involved in caring for her for years.”
And then I saw the knowing look in his eyes. And before he even confirmed it I knew that he was part of the clan. And soon he was sharing about his own mom and her Alzheimer’s. And we were both misting up and pulling kleenex out. And though we had just met, we became family then.
I meet Alzheimer’s “relatives” often. I’ve shared tears at dentist offices and with hair stylists. I’ve shared tears with people I’ve just met at church and with old friends who’ve become sisters and with readers who’ve sent me their stories.
We are family now. Our experiences vary, but we understand each other. We are gentle warriors. We are weary souls. We are battle-scarred veterans.
We’ve loved when there was no more love returned. We’ve cared when we were no longer known. Our hearts have been broken. And then broken again.
Some of us have been yelled at and hit. Most of us have been asked by our loved one, “Who are you?” All of us have dreaded that day.
Many of us have clung to God and grown deeper in faith. We’ve cried out to our Abba Father as we’ve wept. We’ve known His grace. We’ve been sustained by His love.
Some of us have prayed for people we’ve never met in this big family of ours. And we’ve been encouraged by strangers who’ve instantly become sisters or brothers with that knowing look.
Quiet heroes serve among us. And sherpas leave us maps and signs of encouragement as we climb the mountain after them.
Press on brothers. Stay strong sisters. Share your stories. Pass the tissues. Hold a hand when you need to and offer yours when you can.
The journey is hard. But we are not alone.
We have more family than we know.