Lost Friend Inspires Call to Action

By PATTY KELLY | Sep 27, 2017

I was recently doing my version of a jog on one of our fine September mornings when my memory was “jogged” (no pun intended) about a time not so long ago when a good friend lost his way home.

It was this time of year when the weather was just right that the incident occurred. I hesitated to submit a story about this incident a couple years ago because the situation was still very raw and active in some of our hearts. But as time has passed I feel the need to bring this back to the surface, especially since we are in the midst of World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

A few years ago a good friend wandered off in the middle of the night and, unbeknownst to his wife, became lost. Not only was he lost in body, but he was lost in mind as he had advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. I remember that day vividly. My husband woke me up at 1 a.m. to let me know that our friend was missing and there was an all-out search initiated by the Long Beach Township police as well as the Coast Guard because the last place he had been seen was walking toward the beach.

I sprang out of bed to join the search party. Assisting the police, we went street to street and house to house, looking in backyards as well as porches in hope that he had taken a seat to rest while trying to find his way back home. The police checked homes and found some doors unlocked, allowing easy access to see if my friend had ventured inside. Police dogs ran the beach, trying to sniff out our friend’s scent while the Coast Guard scanned the beach from above with spotlights and heat-censored equipment that would detect a person’s body heat. As the night began to turn into morning, even the municipal waste trucks joined the search. See! We live on an awesome island.

This episode reminded me of a time long ago with my own mother. She developed Alzheimer’s at age 57, just around the time I graduated from high school and was getting ready for college. As luck would have it, I was commuting to college; therefore, I was home to help my father manage my mom, as both my sisters had married and moved out. I soon became housewife, mother and caretaker. My sisters were able to help when they could, for which my father and I were very thankful.

One day my mother wandered off and was nowhere to be found. My older sister and my father searched everywhere. On a whim my sister decided to head over to our church to say a prayer in hopes that God would see fit to assist in helping find my mother safe and unharmed. Her prayers were soon to be answered. When she entered the church she saw a woman sitting in the front pew. It was my mom. Somehow, someway God had led my mom and my sister to this safe haven. With tears in her eyes my sister quietly escorted my mom to the car and home they went, safe and sound.

These were the thoughts and prayers that kept me looking hard to find our friend as I had known in my heart that God would lead him to a safe place until he was found. Eventually in the early hours of the morning as the sun rose on the horizon, an employee at Kubel’s Too on Long Beach Boulevard opened a door to the outside storage area, and lo and behold, our friend was sitting in there on the only chair in the space. He had a few scrapes, but all in all he was unharmed. The good news of his finding spread quickly through the neighborhood. He was brought home to the loving arms of his wife and family.

Unfortunately, my friend lost his battle to Alzheimer’s a couple years back. This has prompted me now to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Several things were learned that day:

• As you close up your houses for the summer, don’t forget to check that all your windows and doors are locked.

• Never hesitate to ask for help when someone is missing or lost. The LBI police and Coast Guard as well as municipal workers are awesome and always there to lend a helpful hand in a crisis moment.

• Don’t forget to check on your elderly neighbors/friends to ensure all is well.

• Last but not least, give to the Alzheimer’s Association when you can. What you do now to assist in finding a cure will surely help later to decrease the progression of this horrible, life-taking disease.

A few years have passed since the loss of our dear friend and many years have passed since the loss of my sweet mother, whom I miss dearly. Nevertheless, we never forget who they were and the impact they made in our lives. Not remembering something is one thing, but forgetting is a whole other situation. Our memories are what bring us happiness and keep us together.

Patty Kelly lives in Blue Bell, Pa., and Beach Haven Park.


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