HELP LINE: Use Alzheimer’s walk to fight back against death

DEATH AND I have met on numerous occasions, although I’m happy to report that we haven’t been formally introduced.

As is the case for many of us, I’ve been around it since I was a little boy.

I’ve seen it take neighbors, family, friends, loved ones and pets.

I’ve lost very special people, and I’ve sat in the dark with very special people who lost very special people.

It’s hard not to resent death.

At the same time, most of us are able (if less than willing) to acknowledge its inevitability and get to some acceptance of what is.

Then we move on, usually with a few more scars than we had before.

Death brings hurt because death brings loss. True, it brings a lot of other things as well, but most of us, most of the time, will talk about loss because that’s what we feel: loss.

Often, when we talk about Alzheimer’s disease, we use the word cruel: “It’s a cruel disease.” “It’s a cruel death.”

Why? Because it’s true, and the cruelty lies in the inevitable reality of loss: We will lose — we did lose — that loved one before death bothered to show up.

They were already gone, we had already lost them. So the loss seems to come before its time.

That’s cruel.

Another thing that death tends to bring to the rest of us is helplessness: There’s rarely much of anything that any of us can do about it.

Yes, we can comfort and we can care for and we can keep company, but beyond that, not much.

And for those of you who are at all like me, we don’t take helpless very well. We need to do something.

Well, maybe there’s something we can do; maybe we ought to consider participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Maybe we ought to get out and walk and make a spectacle of ourselves and raise some money and raise some hell.

Because Alzheimer’s can be beaten.

It’s just a matter of how long it will take and how many more of us will be lost to a cruel death before we get there.

Most of us who get involved in the walk have been touched or are being touched by Alzheimer’s.

That’s apparent and appropriate, and there is some comfort in the company of others who understand.

But it isn’t a requirement.

Maybe it’s a way to fight back against death.

To give death the finger, knowing darned good and well that in the end, we’ll lose.

But maybe, we can contribute to less cruelty, less suffering, less … loss.

Maybe it’s worth a try, huh?

The Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s will happen on the Peninsula two weeks from today, Sept. 17.

It will originate at The Gateway transit center in Port Angeles, 133 E. Front St., with registration at 12:30 p.m.

The opening ceremony (which is worth the doing) is at 1:30 p.m. and the walk begins at 2 p.m.

The route will be 2 miles, but there will be a 1-mile route.

Personally, I don’t care how far you walk; I care that you be a part of something that’s worth being a part of.

And rather than put us all into a coma with the particulars, let me just tell you that you can get all of the particulars by going to and having a look around.

Oh, sure, I’d like you to form a team or join a team and raise a lot of money so we can be rid of this cruel disease once and for all.

If you can, please do. That’s how we’ll beat this thing.

But money isn’t required.

Caring is required. And for some of us, courage is required because this will bring back a loss that we’d prefer to leave buried, but that won’t help others.

And that won’t prevent more cruel deaths as days turn into years.

Please, think about it.

We’re just talking about one lousy Sunday afternoon, but it’s a chance to do something.

We all know that we won’t prevail over death, but we might help to prevail over cruelty and loss before its time.

And that might be the best that any of us will ever do.


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information &Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing

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