52: The Journey Begins

52: The Journey Begins

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias

The Journey Begins

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.

~Henry Brooks Adams

We had known for a little more than a month before we decided to let others in on the burden our family had been carrying. On the last day of school before Thanksgiving break, my husband, at age forty-six, stood before his beloved high school students and told them our horrific secret.

We taught at the same high school, so I was able to be with him as his words first began to spill out during homeroom that morning. “I won’t be returning to school after Thanksgiving break, I am taking a medical leave,” he began. “I have an incurable brain disease and I am no longer able to continue in this job I love.” He never spoke the words “Alzheimer’s disease” that day, but he didn’t need to. The students knew what he was talking about.

It was painful to stand beside him and watch as my husband of more than twenty years spoke to each of his six social studies classes that day. I could see the chins start to quiver and the tears begin to fall. There was a stunned silence. During that first class, after he told the students, a young lady came up and asked him so meekly, “I know you are my teacher, but for today is it okay if I give you a hug?” And thus began the long line of embraces from students. Some clung to their favorite teacher and sobbed — some of the toughest guys gave some of the most emotional hugs that day.

Makeshift cards from students began to appear as the day went on, and alumni began to show up at his door.

One sweet girl said she wanted to help him and offered to wash his chalkboards. We were out of the classroom when she started and when we returned this is what was written on the chalkboard:

We love you! You are the best teacher EVER! We will miss you sooooooooo much and pray for your family. Love, Your Awesome Students

And so began our journey into the uncharted waters of living with Alzheimer’s at age forty-six. The day my sweet husband stood so bravely before his students to explain the onslaught of Alzheimer’s will always be a lasting memory to me of his strength, character, and resolve to do what was best for his students and family. I know he wanted to honor God with his honesty and integrity that day — and he did.

~Sandy Morris

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