Dear family and friends,
This has been a challenging year. I always thought that social work was a career I chose. Until I began to accept that social work chose me. My father always considered it “working for the people.” And though, it hasn’t earned me millions, it has given me purpose. To fight for causes I believe in and not just the causes-but for the most vulnerable individuals. I work in child welfare and so for years, I fought for children and their families. For child abuse prevention. For families to stay together. Because for any one who knows me best, family always comes first. Especially, my own. Whether through blood or friendship, it didn’t matter. A close personal cause I have been fighting for has been to find a cure for Alzheimer’s or to witness the FIRST survivor.
First, the disease afflicted my father, Yiannis, who battled the disease for many years. And then my childhood nanny (second mother to me)also received the diagnosis. I had the privilege of caring and moving them in with me and Andy at different times throughout it all.
For my father, it was challenging to watch the vibrant man he was, become quiet and eventually stopped speaking. For yaya, it was her frustration that she asked the same questions over and over. Despite her frustration, her wonderful, natural positive nature was never wavering.
I can tell stories of how difficult and emotional it all was. But this year. This year I choose to write about the honor and privilege of being a part of their lives. They were such significant individuals who molded me into the woman I am today. The woman who fights for causes, and vulnerable individuals. Who uses the big mouth (that would get me in trouble with both of them growing up) to stand up and advocate. Right now, it is for Alzheimer’s.
My yaya passed away on 10/11/18 surrounded by her family in the Philippines. Not from Alzheimer’s but other health issues. My heart hurt that I was not there.
But Baba was also not doing well, and had entered hospice. And though I didn’t think I could bear to be by his side as he took his last breaths, I laid beside him and held his hand as he passed. Letting him know we were all going to be fine. Another special private moment where it was just us. Much as it had been for most of his final days. My heart shattered that day.
I lost them both within two weeks of each other.
I have been healing for 9 months and it will continue for longer. I miss them both every single day. My father’s smile. Calling me “kukla”. But most of all, the way his face broke out into the biggest smile at seeing me. Even when he may no longer have realized I was his daughter. I believe deep down he knew I was someone he loved . He felt and knew I was someone who simply adored and loved him deeply. I believe that brought him as much comfort as it did for me.
I miss Yaya’s laugh. Her joyous and loving presence. Her love of children. The easy way she connected to people through her cooking and her loyalty. Most of all, she always considered me her daughter and made me feel like I was.
After last year’s walk, my friend accompanied me for my annual ritual. Where I would bring Baba the Grand Champion medal I earned in his honor. My friend insisted to take pictures of me with him. I cherish those.
My father passed 3 days later.
This year I have a bigger goal. It’s not about raising the most money. Though I won’t lie, that would be great. My goal is to bring together the largest team of family, friends and caregivers for my father and yaya. To honor the man he was. To honor the woman she was.
That is my story.
Thank you for helping us advance Alzheimer's support, care and research!
I have raised