SallyP

Retroladytyping …

Memories, walking, talking – shared experiences

on 19/09/2016

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Liz, Sally, Jenny and Kathryn and a cast of hundreds walk to remember …

Yesterday, in Bath, a very memorable event took place.  Among all the Georgian, Roman, retail and various tourist activities, hundreds of people assembled on Bath Rec (the home of Bath rugby – another of Bath’s claims to fame) to walk 10K (6 and a bit miles in old money) to achieve three things:  to raise awareness of dementia in all its forms, to remember those affected by this awful illness and to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society.  The Society does valuable work to support people who have dementia, their families and friends, to fund research into causes and, hopefully one wonderful day, to find effective treatments and a cure.

I have taken part in two Memory Walks before this one, which was the inaugural one in Bath.  The Bath Memory Walk  was  extra special because I had the company of my friend, Liz, the other proud Grandma of our shared grandson, also Jenny and Kathryn, walking in memory of their Nan.  We didn’t see too much of them after the start – they are young, so went at a pace which we didn’t attempt to match.  We know our limits and keeping up with two twenty-somethings is probably several steps too far and fast.

I do these Walks, as well as volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Society, mostly in memory of my Mum, who died with dementia just over two years ago.  As a family, I know we, being ignorant of what dementia actually means, didn’t  always do the right things by our Mum.  We didn’t know, so how could we?  However, leaving aside any regrets, I am determined to do what little I can now, as well as finding out as much as I can about dementia, its progress and what can be done to help.     I’ve also, again with Liz, done a couple of 10K actual RUNS.  Those hurt and may not be repeated, so onward with the Memory Walks – they are doable and relatively pain-free.

Back in Bath, on a beautiful, sunny Autumn morning, so perfect for walking and an all-round feel-good day, we arrived, did the hug thing, didn’t take part in the crowd warm-up as we were so busy chatting about said shared grandson, looked at the Memory tree and added my leaf,  met up with Jenny and Kathryn,  my nieces, two of my Mum’s grand-daughters, who walking in memory of their Nan, my Mum, and … off we went,  shuffling through the Start line, in the midst of the many walkers with a shared aim – to do something to remember and  support those with experience of dementia.

Before I write any more, I must mention, again, the Memory Tree – at the site of all Memory Walks there is a Memory Tree – a large white leafless twig, with  img_0375many fluttering labels attached.  Walkers and friends are encouraged to write the name of a loved-one,  a memory and a reason why they are walking that day on a blank label, then attach it to the Memory Tree.   It may sound a little twee, but it is a very moving sight.  Some labels  mention a person’s name, some mention more, but all are special.  To see that, on a sunny day, with the label-leaves fluttering memories of so many people is very moving, as is hearing people reading out the thoughts of others.

Returning to the Walk … after the initial shuffling past the Start, participants spread out and followed the guidance of the wonderful volunteer Marshals.  We haven’t been assisted to cross the road for quite a long time, but we were very grateful to  those high-viz ladies and gentlemen who  were great at holding up traffic, directing us across and thanking each and everyone of us.   The drivers must have wondered at the diverse group of white t-shirted people walking in a  disorderly procession with accompanying dogs, toddlers and a couple of people with zimmers – Memory Walks are like that.   Hopefully, those car-bound people  will find out more and maybe even support us next year, as might the slightly bemused shoppers and tourists.

The rest of the Walk went in a sort of haze … Liz and I had lots to talk about:  our Grandson, including the showing of photographs of course, our parents, our philosophy of life  – stuff like that.  We are never short of a word or seven are Liz and me. We  passed some wonderful architecture in the city and  saw some nature in the parks among other  delights which Bath has to offer, including a great many tourists, but we were too involved with chatting and the purpose of our day to take much notice.   All around us were people supporting the same worthwhile and meaningful  cause, all with a tale to tell, some chatting amongst themselves, some quietly walking, most with personal experience of dementia, some directly, some through their loved ones, some through their patients.   Everyone was wearing a placard saying why they were walking, some with photographs, some saying “For everyone with dementia.”  Mine was personal – my Mum, of course.  IMG_0367.JPG I have worn this one for each Memory Walk, although we receive a new one to personalise each year.  Seems wrong to throw it away and start again.   I was really touched that Liz’s sign said “I am walking for Sally’s Mum.”  That was lovely.  Thank you Liz.

As well as Mum, I was thinking of the people I see weekly in our local hospital, who are coping with the multiple and unsettling difficulties of being physically unwell and  in hospital, while having dementia.  Another person who came to mind often was the amazingly brave, stoical and feisty lady I visit, also weekly, at her home.  This lady, as well as living with dementia, is a demon Scrabble player.  The Memory  Walk was for you too,  and I will beat you one day.  My hospital and home visits are each part of the Voluntary Befriending Scheme run by the Alzheimer’s Society – another example of the support they offer, along with Memory Cafes, Singing for the Brain and on-line support through its Talking Point Forum.

I like to think that we were also walking for our shared Grandson and our children, in the hope that, soon,  the shattering effects of dementia and the erosion of personality that it brings are no more.  I wish … and hope.  Meanwhile, we do what we can to just do something, however little, so that those with more knowledge and power can do more of what they already do so well.

At the finish, we collected  our medals and a free bottle of water, which we certainly needed after all that talking walking.   My medal will go in my Mum Box, with photos and other treasures, the label I always wear on these Walks and the other Medals from past Walks.

Afterwards, back to normal everyday Sunday life – we met with our husbands and went to the pub for Sunday lunch.  The day was completed when Liz’s husband, Phil – our un-official photographer, posted some pictures on Facebook.  Thanks for that Phil.  For once, I shan’t delete any unflattering shots.  Liz and I are proud of what we did.  It was ‘just’ a Walk, no more than a long stroll in the park really, but it carries so much meaning and purpose, so is special to us and, I think, everyone who takes part.  There are others throughout the Autumn at other countrywide venues if anyone else is interested in taking part.

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We did it (and will do it again next year)!

 https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/MW16sallypillinger 

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/

https://www.memorywalk.org.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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