This time last year started a life-changing journey for my family and I. My 53-year-old mother was lost for three days in the brutal Illinois winter weather. Leading up to this event, we had noticed changes in her behavior but didn’t know what to attribute it to. She had told the family she would not be at Christmas that year because she didn’t feel her car was reliable enough to get her from Bloomington to the Pekin, IL. On Christmas night, we received a call from her significant-other asking when she had left to head back home. There was instantly a feeling of panic. My uncle and I drove around most of the night looking for her along different routes she could have taken, but there was no sign of her. Detective Jeff Engle of the Bloomington Police Department contacted me the next day to discuss the circumstances and what his plan was to find her. My sister and I also started a Facebook post begging for anyone and everyone to keep a look out for her and to share information about the search.
Eventually, she ended up using her credit card which sent the search to Mattoon, Illinois. On December 27th, her car was found abandoned in a residential area of Mattoon. It felt like our worst fears were coming true. My family and I headed for Mattoon to help in the search. Later that day, I received a call from Detective Engle saying my mom was found alive and was with the State Police. We couldn’t get to her fast enough. I will never forget the feeling of being able to hug her again. My family and I say that it truly was a Christmas miracle that she survived. We even got to meet the gentleman that found her and saved her life. We believe he had to have been a guardian angel here on Earth. Turns out, my mother went for a drive and her car had run out of gas. That night, she slept in her car without any heat whatsoever. The gentleman who saved her life found her the next day and gave her a place to stay.
The following handful of months after finding my mother were just as tough. It was hard for her to comprehend that something wasn’t right, and couldn’t really understand why she wasn’t allowed to drive anymore. She was resistant to help find answers and did not like all of the doctor appointments. After enduring many tests, we finally received the diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease. While my family and I were expecting this diagnosis; it was still a punch to the gut. The diagnosis was earthshaking. However, it brought our family closer together. We have a deeper understanding of patience, compassion, “don’t sweat the small stuff” and unconditional love. We don’t know what the future looks but right now my sister and I still have our mom. We want to have good memories and enjoy her company. While this journey is scary and somewhat unknown, we have each other, and we have an opportunity to make the most out a bad hand of cards.
At times, this journey feels very lonely and isolating. I do not have any friends that can really relate to what I’m going through. I’m only 32 years old. My younger sister and I are just starting to create our own families, and we need our mom now more than ever. On the other hand, we have met some amazing people along the way. We even participated in our first Walk To End Alzheimer’s in Peoria this year on October 13th. To see that many people come together to support a cause that so quickly became front and center in our lives was a wonderful reminder that we are not alone.
For those just starting to navigate through this journey; keep your chin up and try to find the joy. There isn’t a how-to book for this, so do the best you can and lean on those in your support system. And remember, you are not alone!
By: Lindsay Edwards