Alzheimer’s is a vicious disease. It comes silently and then robs a person of their memories and ability to process change. Although families might learn to live with the disease in a functioning way, it’s still a painful road to embark on.
One year after losing her mother, Julie Bick faced the heartbreaking diagnosis that her father had Alzheimer’s.
“This diagnosis came one year after my mother’s passing and it was something I truly was not prepared for,” Bick told Love What Matters.
With the loss of her mother being so fresh in her heart, Bick made up her mind to make the most of the remaining time that she would have with her father.
“I never was able to spend much time with my mother as her passing was sudden,” she explained. “I let life get in the way of making time for my mother and I refuse to let life get in the way of me spending these last moments with my father.”
Shortly after hearing the diagnosis, Bick made the decision to move in with her father. The single mother of two girls, Carlee, 10, and Brantlee, 8, became her father’s full-time caregiver as his memory continued to dwindle.
“My father was so happy about this,” she said about her family moving in.
It wasn’t an easy job, as Julie had to witness her father’s declining mental health and tell him what he could and couldn’t do, – taking his car keys or restricting how he mowed the lawn.
As the disease progressed, Julie started to notice the little things that made her dad’s eyes light up.
“He is such a fun loving guy that makes friends with anyone he comes in contact with,” Julie said. “One person once told me my dad is just like Norm from Cheers. Everyone knows and loves him.”
One of her dad’s favorite things is seeing their garbage man, Harold.
“He knows my dad has Alzheimer’s and says hi to him every week and asks how he is doing,” Julie said about Harold. “This morning, dad asked me to take a chair out to the curb because he wanted to talk to Harold. I helped dad get a chair out.”
“If we miss Harold when he comes, he will always go the extra mile to walk our cans back to our garage,” Julie added. “I’ve heard other neighbors say that Harold will even knock on your door if the pickup day is around a holiday and you have forgotten to take your garbage out.”
One Monday, after a rough night, Julie sat on the front porch softly crying, when she saw her dad.
“I knew he saw me the night before crying and it bothered him,” she said. “I’m typically a very positive, upbeat person but I simply was having a ‘feel sorry for myself’ moment.”
As the garbage truck approached in the distance, like it always did on Monday morning, Julie ducked inside to get a tissue, while her dad walked down the driveway. When she returned to the porch, she saw her dad walking back towards her.
“I asked what he was doing and offered my help,” Julie recalled. “He said he needed a chair to sit down, as he is very unstable on his feet. I asked, ‘Where would you like the chair?’ as I was carrying it out of the garage. He requested I take it to the end of the driveway so he can visit with Harold.”
Julie listened to her father and brought over a chair when all of a sudden her father started crying.
She asked her dad what was wrong and he replied: “Harold is a good man. He is my friend. He is religious, and I would like a moment to pray with him for you.”
Julie walked back to the house, to give the two a moment alone. When she turned back, she saw Harold praying on his knees beside her elderly father’s chair.
“Although we have had Harold as our garbage man for many, many years, he truly doesn’t know us,” Julie said. “He knows my father has Alzheimer’s and knows we are friendly people that talk to him weekly, but he doesn’t know us.”
Julie was in awe that Harold would take time out of his day to pray for a woman he barely knows.
“This stranger is on his knees praying with my father for me,” she recalled thinking.
Julie decided at that moment that she wanted to keep the memory forever, so before going inside, she snapped a quick photo.
“This simple act of kindness has touched me so much,” she said. “Harold has touched my heart and I knew I had to share this.”
“There is so much good in this world, and it starts with simple acts of kindness,” she continued. “Harold, thank you for your kindness and prayers. I will never forget this moment.”
(H/T: Love What Matters)