Before you were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, I only knew about it from seeing Ellis Grey's struggle in Grey's Anatomy. I knew it was a horrible disease, but never understood how difficult it is for loved ones to cope with.
You were diagnosed almost four years ago, just a little after Grandpa died. At first, we never thought it would be serious. You just tended to mix up our names and have moments where it didn't quite seem like you knew what you were doing. As much as I hate myself for saying this, watching your early stages with the disease was like watching a child say or do something funny. It was cute in the sense that it disguised what was to eventually overcome you.
I don't live near you, so every time I visited I noticed more and more how much the disease was progressing. It was no longer cute to watch you mess up little things in your daily routine. It broke my heart into pieces to see you become so frustrated when things like putting on a jacket were not so easy anymore. I couldn't understand why everything had become so difficult for you; it was so hard to bring myself to help you do things that even my seven-year-old cousins could do on their own.
Last time we saw you, you still recognized us. Maybe not by name, but you knew I was your granddaughter and that my mom was your daughter. Now, I'm not even sure that you know you have a granddaughter and daughter.
You were always so strong - mentally and physically. You were able to do the splits and stand on your head just under ten years ago. Up until the year of your diagnosis, you still walked to the gym and took your cardio workout class every single morning. You got your hair and nails done twice a week. You cooked lunch for the entire family every Saturday. You called almost every day to see how we were doing.
It pains me to see how different this disease has made you. How did it completely change who you are? Your values, your memories, and your personality have all vanished. You look at us with blank stares as we hope for a moment of lucidity that we all know won't come. Your old walk of poise and elegance is now one of confusion and somberness, and as much as we all pray it will return, we know it is gone along with your most precious memories - of our Grandpa, of your kids, and of yourself.
But we will love you forever. Your smile still warms our hearts, and your embrace is just as comforting as it was when I was four years old and had fallen and scraped my knee. Your hugs are still my favorite, and hearing your voice sends waves of comfort down my spine.
You have had an extraordinary life. You raised four amazing children, nine grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren and counting. Your legacy is marked in the recipes you have passed down, the lessons you have taught, and the love you have never failed to spread throughout our family.
You are still the best Grandma a girl could ask for, and I am forever thankful to have had you touch my life in the exceptional ways that you have. As much as I wish you still carried yourself in the impressive way that you once did, I know that deep down you are still the strong, confident, and independent woman I looked up to while growing up. The Alzheimer's may have affected your mind, but it will never come even close to taking your remarkable soul.
All my love,
Your Wistful Granddaughter
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