Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease story-1988

Paul Lamb, who lost his battle to Alzheimer's Disease, about 1988. ©Scott Dalzell

I first met Paul after his wife Mary introduced us. Mary worked at the gift shop of a local hospital. She was 79, Paul was 80. Paul suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and Mary didn’t think he would receive quality treatment in a nursing home. She loved him too much and decided that she would take care of him until his death. Paul was totally dependent on Mary. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t walk and couldn’t take care of himself independently. She was his lifeline.

The hoist was Paul's only method of transportation. ©Scott Dalzell

Mary had to move Paul using a hoist. It was a time-consuming process. If she needed to get Paul to bed, exercise, or the bathroom, the hoist was used. Otherwise, Paul could sit in his wheelchair.

Paul loved the outdoors and would often sit outside for hours watching nature in the woods next to his home. ©Scott Dalzell

Mary whispers to Paul how much she loves him. ©Scott Dalzell

Without a doubt this is my favorite picture of the story. This is easily my favorite photo that I’ve ever taken. To me this photo sums up the monstrous grip that Alzheimer’s Disease has on its victim. More than that, this photo screams undying love.

Paul and Mary had met when they worked for the State Street Marshall Fields in the 1930s (I think). Paul worked security at Fields and would always make sure to visit the candy maker’s floor and scoop up handfuls of the tasty candy. My wife worked for Fields, in their Rockford store, so I thought a box of Frangos would be a nice gift to thank them for allowing me to spend so much time with them. I think I had been coming to their house for about three to four months at the time I took this picture. On this day, I gave them a pound box of the candy that my wife picked up for me. Mary wanted to give him some of the candy right away (I honestly never thought they’d have the candy while I was there). So she chopped up a bunch of the mints because he couldn’t eat the big pieces. What happened next forced me to choke back tears and would, ironically, come back to haunt me later in life. Paul tasted the mints and immediately, began to weep. Paul had a moment when he remembered. It had to be that. But those memories were trapped inside of him. He continued to cry. That was the only form of communication he could express.

I still remember Mary saying “He knows.” It’s that fresh in my mind today; it was that powerful. So she leans over and whispers into his ear, “Paul, I love you more than anything.” It was such a beautifully-tragic moment. It resonates in my soul to this very day.

Mary gives Paul his weekly haircut. ©Scott DalzellMary helps Paul exercise his limbs to avoid muscle atrophy. ©Scott Dalzell

Paul and Mary would spend many of their evenings watching the sunset. ©Scott Dalzell

This photo became my closing picture to the story, in a sense. I much preferred this photo as a closer than the one that I used in the published story. I shot this photo very early in the project which I ended up working on for about eight months. I was nearing the end of shooting and we had been working on designing the section, which I believe was a four-page special section. The writer Karen Warnke (Thibodeau) was brought into the process kind of late because the original writer got a new job and bailed on the story. We were pushing hard to get the story published shortly after Christmas (I think).

On New Year’s Day, I received a phone call from Mary and Paul’s son, Peter. I was the first non-family member they had called. Paul died on New Year’s Day; Paul and Mary’s wedding anniversary. Mary had told me that they had their usual ritual. She would exercise his limbs, and get him ready for bed. Since it was New Year’s Eve, they stayed up a little later. At midnight, Mary said she knelt down, kissed Paul and wished him a happy anniversary. He died in his sleep.

I really struggled with how to handle this as a friend and journalist. The story had to be changed. I ended up shooting a photo of Mary taking an evening walk, alone and that became the closer for the story. I think the photo of them sitting in front of the window is more fitting. I did go to the funeral, but did so as a friend, not a photographer. I question that decision, but as a person, I did what I would want to happen if the situation was reversed.

Here’s the cruel irony that I was referring to earlier about Paul and the Frangos. My grandfather was diagnosed with dementia, though I’m pretty sure it was Alzheimer’s. There were way too many parallels. Either way, my grandfather was trapped. He was Paul. My grandmother put him in a nursing home, one she used to work at. I remember the first time that grandpa met my first-born, Zach. “Z ” was just a few months old and we wanted grandpa to see his great-grandson. When he held Zach for the first time, he began to weep, uncontrollably. I could barely keep it together. Watching my grandfather helpless and trapped was more than I could handle. It was way too much like Paul and the Frangos. It was the last time I saw him alive. I couldn’t bring myself to visit him again after that. I wasn’t strong enough. The dementia/alzheimer’s ended up taking his life. I honestly don’t remember how long it was when I last saw him to when he died. I miss him terribly.

I’ll continue to share more of my work as the weeks progress. If I can figure out how to scan negatives without a negative scanner, I’ll have a lot more work to share. Otherwise, it’s what I have prints of. I never saved any of my digital work. I think I knew my time was up in the photojournalism world when the digital conversion began. A part of me will always be a photojournalist, but I’m a teacher now. This is just part of that journey that has helped me find true peace and happiness.

Guess what? Tomorrow-new music Tuesday! Until then……Peace!

416 thoughts on “Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease story-1988

  1. Had to redo my eye makeup after reading this one. You were right to attend the funeral. After all journalists are people too.

    • I’m hoping people see this comment, but I’ll probably do a more in depth blog about this, but I am truly humbled. Thank you all for your kind words. You all taking your time to read my blog and comment with your own personal stories has moved me to tears. It’s amazing to see a story 20 years old that still speaks to people. Paul and Mary were very special people and you have helped me to honor their memory and those who have suffered and continue to suffer with this terrible disease. Thanks to all for the wonderful stories and kind words.

      • thank you…life is a journey and the people we meet remind us of what LIFE is about…love.

      • So well written. You depict the tragedy of this situation with such poignant beauty and honour, just as it should be talked about. Glad I found your blog and will definitely be revisiting.

      • I see it the face of Dementia everyday and the sad faces of the care givers, I love your story please continue to educate those who do not share the love and the fear we see everyday.
        Josephine Brown
        Program Director
        NY Memory Center

      • Scott….thank you. This is one of the most poignant and beautiful stories I’ve ever read. The photos add so much to the feelings and deep emotion expressed here. You have truly given us all a precious gift…lucky for whom ever you work with now, to have you as a teacher.

      • This story brought tears to my eyes. My grandfather had Parkinsons, and he too felt trapped inside his body. He used to paint a lot, but he slowly lost the ability to hold a paintbrush, and I think the fact that he could no longer express himself at all broke his heart. I love art and photography as well, and your photograph where Mary whispers to Paul how much she loves him is one of the most beautiful photographs I have ever seen, its just so expressive. Thank you for sharing this with us!

    • I am living it as we speak with my Dad, thank you for showing the rest of the world the human side of these diseases.

    • I love this story. My great granmother has Alzheimer’s. It breaks my heart to hear this story. But it is a powerful example of the strongest love there is.

    • My grandmother died of altimers. (how ever you spell it.) this story made me feel very emotional and reminded me of her. She lived far away from me but a few months before her death we became extremely close. I knew what was wrong with her, but I liked talking to her
      on the phone. Sometimes she would forget how to talk, But I would still call and talk in her ear. This story reminds me of why I am here today. If she wasnt born, my dad would not be here, and either would I. God bless.

  2. Beautiful. My Oma suffered from Alzheimer’s. My Opa had to put her into a nursing home because it got to the point to where she did not remember him. She would scream and be terribly frightened because she had no idea who he was, or anyone else for that matter. How terrifying to wake up next to someone you do not remember!
    I remember one time when I was in high school, my Opa had called us (they lived in Germany, us in Texas) because Oma was freaking out because she could not find my brother and I. We had not been there in a couple years, but she swore we were there and could not find us. I had to talk to her, in what very little german I knew, and try to help her calm down. That will always stick with me. It still makes me tear up.
    Thank you for this story. It really hit home.

  3. “A part of me will always be a photojournalist, but I’m a teacher now.” Yes you are indeed.
    What a beautifully written post and the photos are equally powerful.
    Thank you for this, MJ

  4. this has really struck a chord with me. what a beautiful piece, supported with moving pictures. a friend of mine lost her mother while her grandfather was gripped with the disease, and it broke her heart to have to explain to him that she was dead, time and time again and see the intense loss he felt, as if it was new information. I am sorry for the loss of your grandfather, and hope that pieces like this make everyone more aware of the struggles of such a powerful disease.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this. My grandfather has this horrible disease and is currently in a nursing home. It is so difficult to see him “trapped” as you described. This piece is beautifully written, and the photos are exquisite. It really shows the love they had for each other. Thanks again for sharing, and God bless.

  6. Touching and beautiful piece — both the photographs and the story. It moved me to tears because it demonstrated what true, honest to goodness unconditional love looks like. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on a well-deserved Freshly Pressed!

  7. Speechless. Both for your own family and Paul and the Frangos. I work in a care home myself, and words can’t describe the panic and dismay I feel watching the people I care for progress throughout their dimensia. Such a powerful story, one which many across the world can empathise with. Your photography is beautiful, it’s a shame they signify such terrible loss across humanity.

  8. What a beautiful story of true love. This is what a good and healthy marriage looks like…two people dedicated to each other their entire lives. It is both beautiful and tragic all in the same breath. Your photos are just amazing and real. They put the viewer into a place that makes them feel like they are right there in the pictures. Keep shooting. You have a lovely and amazing gift of photgraphy. And you were right to attend the funeral, you might have been their photographer telling their story but more importantly, you were their friend.


  9. It’s a sobering story and your photographs tell it well. Thank you for sharing it.

    Unfortunately my father-in-law has Alzheimers and I hope, for his sake, he loses his life to something else before he reaches this stage.

  10. Your story is one that brought tears to my eyes. You captured the true essence of the feelings family members go through and the pain that the person with Alzheimer’s feels. Seeing them struggle because they are trapped in their own mind is the toughest thing ever. My grandmother died of Alzheimer’s in 2007 and the last photo you posted of this couple mimics the experiences I had with caring for my grandmother. Beautifully done.

  11. A very heart rending story…U wrote “I did go to the funeral, but did so as a friend, not a photographer-” and this situation of dilemma comes so often in the life of us journalists. It gets so difficult to draw line between being professional and being emotional.

  12. Oh wow! You are simply amazing in your writing and the photography speaks volumes of its own! I can relate to the disease of Alzheimer’s and dementia as I have watched my own family experience the wrath of despair. Cheers to you! Look forward to more amazement from you.

  13. Thanks for sharing this story.
    My grandmother is suffering from early stages of alzheimer, she is no longer the vain kind woman I once new, I miss that woman terribly. My grandfather although tired and insists on caring for her. He truly loves her!
    It’s a terrible disease, thank you for talking about it.

  14. OMG… Eye makeup ruined as well. Photographs are beautiful. A true real life, unorthodox fairy tale of what it means to love. I think every woman, and underneath… every man hopes to find this in this life! Congratulations to Mary for finding, cherishing, and keeping her love. Lucky you to have been apart of it. Thank you also for sharing it.

    It has made my day, and given me hope!
    Much gratitude, Ashley.

  15. It would have been an experience of a lifetime to be a part of something like this🙂🙂
    The relation of a husband and a wife like this is truly divine love foe each other that held them together in such tough times🙂
    I simply loved all the pics🙂 wonderful photography🙂 Please keep posting🙂🙂

  16. How beautiful. My grandma had Alzheimer’s. And tomorrow I have an interview with the Alzheimer Society – this article came at a perfect time for me. What a beautiful gift you have.

  17. beautiful piece. my grandmother died of alzheimers and seeing her trapped inside her own memories was a difficult thing to watch. my grandfather took care of her until the day he died of liver cancer. your photos of mary and paul’s time together, and her undying love for him ripped open the duct tape that was holding that piece of my heart together.

  18. This post got me really teary. What manner of love that existed with the couple is so touching. May his soul rest in peace. Well done for putting up such amazing pictures and the post!

  19. I love the story. Great photos, too. My grandmother suffered the same and has passed on.

    My experience has been somewhat different. I witnessed a massive amount of depression behind these two ‘diseases.’ And having spent time at a job that frequents the nursing homes as well as working for the state with mentally handicapped people, my conclusion is that these people who on some level don’t really want to be here, are kept around for selfish, even financial reasons… and its mixed with some kind of human emotional bullc-rap that everyone can’t seem to transcend. We need to control emotions at some point and look at what keeping these people around add (or subtracts) from our society.

    But I do empathize with your feelings… They are valid.😉

    • Thank you and I totally see the “other side.” I totally respect where you are coming from and on some level agree. Each story is different and we have to try our best to be true to ourselves and those around us. Thanks for sharing.

    • “Keeping these people around”? I’m not sure what else we can do. Kill them?

      I agree with you, by the way, that in at least some cases there is a lot of depression and not wanting to be here. I think that was true in my mother’s case. But I don’t see a palatable alternative to “keeping them around.”

  20. Your photography captures very intense emotional transmissions in a thoughtful and soft manner. Keep shooting please, your works truly move people’s sentiments.

  21. Thank you for that story. It’s a picture of REAL love, unlike the love Hollywood touts. The photography is amazing. I hope you have a chance to pursue that while in your current field.

  22. That was beautiful. I used to work in an assisted living home and had so many encounters with our alzheimer’s residents that were both precious and heart breaking.

    I love your description of the photo of Paul and Mary…”the monstrous grip that Alzheimer’s Disease has on its victim” That is such a perfect description of alzheimers. It IS a monster that slowly crushes it’s victim.

    Thank you.

  23. Beautiful story. As a granddaughter who lost a grandmother who was more like a best friend to Alzheimer’s, you have truly captured the essence of what a person loses to the disease and the pain loved ones feel while watching memories slip away.

  24. Lately, I have been feeling a little sorry for myself. Ten years ago, I took a terrible fall from trimming a tree in the front yard of a newly purchased home. The damage to my spine has not been good. Each year the pain has gotten worse. Reading this, brought me to the reality how blessed I truly am in coming up to my seventh birthday early next year. Other than pain in my back from time to time, I am a very healthy man for my age. Thank you God for all your blessings.

  25. Lovely–Inspired me to write another chapter to my memoire. Auntie lingers year after year, and yes, it does take everything I have to religiously visit her week after week.

  26. This is such a touching story. You tell is so well. You should try digital photography. I love it because I can take hundreds of pictures and look at them instantly. You can delete the ones you hate but sometimes there is one great photo that is special and wonderful.

    • Oh, I do nothing but dit. When I was in newspapers I lead the first staff in Illinois to completely moving into digital photography. I was “blessed?” to spend 250,000 dollars in about a week time in doing that. The pictures on the rest of my blog are all digital. Though I’m no longer using professional gear, I work with what I have. I get to shoot for myself and no longer need to please editors. It’s a little selfish, but it’s no longer “work” to take pictures. I’m attempting to fall back in love with what I once loved.

      • I hope you do. To capture in both word and picture such palpable emotion is a gift few truly have. I am glad to hear, though, that at least you have the opportunity to nurture that same gift when it sprouts before you as a teacher. God bless. The story grabbed my heart.

  27. I relate to this story and understand fully what you’re describing. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my mother decided to care fully for him. Your description fit perfectly with the love I witnessed between my parents. My mother cared for my father for twelve years with love. She committed over a 100% to look after my father. She used every single drop of herself to perform this task without any regrets and with tons of love.

    Even after being diagnosed with lost of kidney function, she took care of him. The last two years she was the primary carer after starting dialysis. She died first of cronic kidney failure. My father died six month later. Caring for a Alheizmer’s patient is very difficult and consumes the carer.

    We did experience the flashes of consciousness as you discribe. Sometimes he would cry. Sometimes he would laught. Sometimes he would stare at my mother’s eyes with recognition. These flashes were very short, a couple of seconds.

    I have a draft post about my parents experience which I haven’t written beyon the first paragraph. I think your post have motivated me to complete it. I just have to decide if I will write it in English or Spanish.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • How about English and Spanish? Then share it with as many people as you can. We all have a story to tell, but our hesitation in telling our stories is in a way not validating our experience. If you feel it, tell it. Who cares what others think?

      • My parents died “recently”, five years ago, and the some memories are still painful. Writing brings back the memories and somehow I have been avoiding it. I think I have now the strength to tell about it.

      • Thanks for you beautiful story and photos of one couple’s Alzheimer experience. Also thanks for the encouragement to write the stories we all have within us without worrying about what others might think. Right now I am working on a story about my mother’s Alzheimer experience. It tugs at my heart so can only write a little at a time. Thanks again for your story and encouragement.

  28. These images are exquisite and haunting as is the story they tell. Your writing , and the way you’ve woven in your memories of your grandfather, is quite wonderful, too. I don’t know what else to say except that you moved me to tears with this one. This post deserves to be widely read. Congratulations on being “freshly pressed”.

  29. Wow, this is huge. I just started out as a picture story teller, and it’s stories like this one about Paul and Mary that I want to make, with undeniable passion & compassion. This is what this rotten world needs. Would be honored if you visited my blog.

  30. Pingback: Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease Story-1988 « PDResources

  31. This account is very moving. It really shows how helpless and trapped the people who suffer from such diseases feel. What pains them more than their disease is their impaired thought and speech. My grand-parents lost their livers to brain-tumor and stomach-cancer when i was very young. My mother still tells my how my grand-father begged for death unable to bear the cancer pain. I wish i had their presence in my life to guide and love me.
    Your pictures convey emotions beautifully. I would love to see more of such work from you. And thanks for sharing.

  32. What an incredible story and how beautifully told. I’m also going to have to adjust my eye makeup. The photo of Mary whispering her love is by far one of the most breathtaking photos I’ve ever seen. It reminds me of my all-time favorite love song, Ben Fold’s song, “The Luckiest.” Thank you for sharing their story!

  33. Your blog is incredibly touching and hits home for so many adult children. I have yet been able to dry my eyes, the pictures are so touching and raw with true emotion. I witness this with my own parents. They have been married for 66 years and my mom is trapped in her own world with Parkinson’s/Dementia while my father spends his time waiting for the two trips to visit her each week. When he visits, he never knows how he will be met, she may remember him or not and she may speak English or not. The hardest thing for him to accept is that this is how they will spend their final years. Mom is simply too much for anyone to handle without restraint, strength and skills. To witness my dad’s heartbreak and frustration is just too much to endure

  34. Oh, this was like reading the story of my grandmother and grandfather. My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s many years ago. He lived with it for 13 years, I was fairly young at the time and can remember watching the disease progress over the years until, like Paul in your story, could no longer walk, talk or feed himself. My grandmother put him in a nursing home for a short until finally deciding he wasn’t receiving the kind of care she wanted him to have, and from then on she cared for him herself. I wish I had thought to document those fleeting moments at the time. He passed away around my senior year of high school. Beautiful story and beautiful photos.

  35. I loved your blog. It’s a tragic yet heart-warming story that in today’s fast-paced world, where it seems most are thinking only of themselves, that there are those people that have such undying love for someone they Would and Do anything and everything for them!

  36. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. I search everyday for greater meaning and purpose to life, its kind of a personal mission I set each day. When I find something inspiring early in my day, It seems to make my every choice thereafter more purposeful. this story did just that for me.
    What an amazing story of true love, compassion, patience, and a lesson on how each of us should learn to live ALIVE. I am especially touched by Mr. Frangos only means of expression through tears. It made my eyes water instantly, and I immediately thought to myself, that when we look at the world around us, it is so utterly obvious that so many people have forgotten to simply stop and enjoy the sensation of just being alive. Unlike Mr. Frango, so many of us have not slowed down long enough to just enjoy a simple peace of candy and be so conscious of the links between the sensations in our tongue that recognize the sweetness and spice of a mint, and the memories it unlocks in the mind. I have no doubt that if he had the capacity, he would look deeply in our eyes and share how we must never stop valuing each moment we have in our bodies and all its capacity.

    In closing, I am reminded of a samurai maxim (also happens to be in a movie with Tom Cruise), but I think it is a perspective that I feel goes along with the lesson I am taking away from the story you have shared about Mr. Frango, “Life in every breathe…that is Bushido”. I am not suggesting we all become samurai warriors, but I believe Mr. Frango’s eyes would share a very similar message to anyone who would stop and “listen” to the message of his heart. I will honor him by paying forward and sharing the message I believe he would share with anyone he met, that life is a gift. Thank you for sharing. I start my day inspired…

  37. I inadvertently wrote about my Grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s and my struggle to visit her and see her deteriorate weekly. I am so sorry you had to go through this as well. Praying that God’s peace with envelope your heart today and everyday that you remember your Grandfather, not as the man you knew growing up, but as the man who suffered from this terrible disease.

  38. I can’t tell you how much these pictures and your post resonated with me. I lost my father to Alzheimer’s nearly 5 years ago. At least that’s when he died. We lost him long before that. We’d only get the brief reminders that he was maybe still inside. Like Paul, he’d sometimes cry when he heard certain songs or tasted certain foods. Looking at the picture of Mary whispering into Paul’s ear is like looking at a picture of my parents. It’s striking how much that picture captures and I can’t think of how many others there are who, like me, might look at it and feel heartbroken all over again.

    Thank you for your beautiful tribute.

  39. Your photography skill is wonderful. These made me cry a bit though. Paul looks just like my grandma did her last week of life, with the sunken face and skeletal frame and vacant eyes. She passed away April 11, 2011. This was hard for me to see, but you are very talented and your humanness is touching.

  40. i am a italian girl, my grandmother has alzheimer problems since 2003, she stay in a nursing home.
    Your photos are very important for me because represent her state of mind, and her personality.
    Thank you,

  41. Beautiful story and photos. Alzheimer’s Disease has touched my family many times already, so this story resonates with me deeply. I hope that in my lifetime we’ll figure a way to free these people who are trapped within their own minds so mercilessly. Thanks for sharing.

  42. This is such a beautiful story. Brought tears to my eyes thinking of my grandmother’s current battle with Alzheimer’s and my grandfather’s daily struggle to care for her. Thank you for sharing.

  43. Man. I would say your photo journalism days are far from over if you don’t let them be. Perhaps ScanCafe could help you in some way.

    Loved your post. Have a loved one going down the same road…

  44. I clicked on the link to this post from Word Press’s Freshly Pressed page because a good friend in the healthcare field is doing research/advocacy related to Alzheimer’s Disease and it thus piqued my interest. I’m so glad I did because I had the chance to experience this beautiful and touching story through your moving words and (especially) photographs. I’ve passed the post along to my friend as well. Thank you for sharing.

  45. a very moving read…. as a doctor, I can identify with the devastating effect that this condition has on patients and people close to them… and the prognosis isn’t very hopeful for the time-being… ur pictures and the particular story u shared brought me to tears… I would like to share something I read during my medical school years while studying clinical psychiatry – even when a person falls victim to Alzheimer’s or dementia, etc, he retains the memories that were emotionally most significant to him…. that is a moving and encouraging piece of information indeed… and I hope it helps. keep up ur brilliant work!

  46. This really touched my heart. I like your journalism, and your photography is beautiful. It really makes me feel as if I am there. Thank you for sharing this.

  47. Your post resurfaces that Love is not only found in books but in real Life too… Lots of people need to read your article…

  48. Beautiful & sad, I love your images of Mary & Paul and their story. How great to be so deeply loved right to the end. Well done to Mary and to all others who are looking after loved ones with Alzheimer’s.

  49. Wow. What a powerful story with incredible photos. I really enjoyed the narrative – written so sincerely. Have you kept in touch with Mary? How did she manage after Paul’s death? It seems that her whole life was dedicated to caring for him, so he must have left a giant hole.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed – I’m off to look at the rest of your blog.

    • Mary and I kept in touch for years following the story. When we would commute from Chicago to my wife’s home in the Quads, we would ALWAYS stop and visit Mary. She even got to see my two youngest grow up over the years. Unfortunately, like many things, we lost contact and that is something that will always bug me. I’ve got to assume she passed on, but I know she is in a place that is keeping her happy. And she’s with Paul.

  50. The photos speak volumes. Every one of them pulls at the heart and speaks to the love and commitment Mary. Paul was truly lucky to have been as loved as he was.

  51. This is the most beautiful story that a series of photos has ever told. It is also the most incredible love story that I think I’ve ever read.

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing it.

  52. This reminds me of my next door neighbor, who passed away from Alzheimer’s years ago. I grew up living next door to him and it broke my heart when he couldn’t remember that. I don’t know if you listen to NPR at all, but the British writer Terry Prachett had an interview on today about his diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Such a tragic disease, first for the victim and last for the family. Thank you for sharing such a personal story with us.

  53. Thanks for this truly amazing and beautiful blog post. I had to choke back tears myself reading it (my father having Alzheimer’s). Your pictures could easily tell the story without the words, but since you´re a great storyteller as well, that would have been a pity.

  54. That was hard to read. My grandpa had Ahlzeimers. I came home for a family emergency and ended up helping him get back into his house. He hadn’t seen me in over a year and was talking about driving the beer wagon and the horses… Then all of a sudden, he walked into the kitchen where I was fixing lunch and with tears in his eyes said, “It’s so hard. You just don’t know how hard this is for me.” Then he was gone again, back to his youth and his first job in America delivering beer. That was the last time he said anything coherent to me.

  55. This was beautiful and yet heart breaking to read. My grandmother died after a battle with Ahlzeimers and this post brought back a lot of memories of a time when she became a child again. Both your pictures and your story were quite potent! Thanks so much for sharing!

  56. Stunning post — beautiful and heartbreaking. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. Well deserved!

  57. My grandfather recently passed away with the same issues. This has both its charming and endearing moments and its long suffering moments. Your blog and your photos are amazing. They brought both tears to my eyes and smiles to my face. Thank you for writing such a touching story.

  58. Which grandfather were you talking about. Wonderful writing, pictures and story. You obviously have a gift.

  59. That was beautiful… made me cry a little. I’ve known several people with Alzheimer’s, but they didn’t get this kind of love and care at the end of their lives, and I’m very glad for Paul that he had people there with him who stuck by him to the end. I don’t think I would be strong enough to do what Mary did, but I guess you never know how strong you are until you’re in that position.

  60. Thank you for sharing. As others have already saw, your presentation was moving and beautiful. My dad is moving more and more into dementia now–good days and bad days, but needs more care than family can give. Your piece helps provide some understanding that will help as I visit and try to help. Congrats on being FPed.

  61. Today I finished my summer internship as a chaplain at an assisted living facility, working specifically with residents who have advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s. There couldn’t have been a more appropriate post for me to read. You capture it just right: being trapped. Thank you for your heartfelt and compassionate post. We never know what will trigger that emotion, whether it be joy or sorrow. Thank you.

  62. Thank you for sharing these very moving images. They tell such a beautiful story of love and loss. I don’t know how you told such a full story with so few images. AMAZING. Thank you.

  63. I lost my mom 3 years ago – She was ill twelve years from Alzheimer’s. Half of them nothing reminded of her anymore. This alteration in the body and the lost look of injured than harder for their loved ones. But our love is endless, actually.
    being good- thank you for the fotos eventhough it still hurts….

  64. Beautiful story, both need to be told to the world, 1 about the diseases and 2 about true love. There’s not much of it left n the world lately. Thank you for sharing this with us. You capture the moment perfectly both in words and pictures. Keep up the good work.

  65. This is a very powerful post, it reminds me of the documentaries that PBS did on Alzheimer’s. I watch them every time they come on. They always make me cry as did your post. It was hard for me to watch my grandmother die, she had dementia. She didn’t remember me and died not remembering me. Alzheimer’s and dementia are very emotional things for everyone involved and I believe you did the right thing by going to the funeral. It helps give closure in that type of situation. Thanks you for sharing this with everyone.

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  67. My uncle was bain damaged by a childhood disease. As a child I always knew him as the only ‘normal’
    adult. He had a large collection of toys, and never watched what I felt were the boring movies. He walked
    with a cane and stumbled – I thought it was cause he was old, he was only forty. Grandmother spoiled him rotten – a trait he passed on to the grandchildren – giveing us anything of his that we asked to have.
    My sisters teddy bear was one his favorites – she borrowed the bear time and again untill my uncle let
    her have it – he even taught her the song that went with it.
    He is much more disabeled now – but thanks to a program grandmother got him into – he was able to work as a label inspecter – and still holds a job in an office shreading papers. Mother bought him a moterized wheelchair, that still sits in our living room as he kept rolling over his feet. Grandmother is
    gone but the time and effort she put into finding him a permenent apartment home in a beautiful historic
    neighborhood is not. Of all grandmothers children, my mother seems to have the most loyalty to her brother.

  68. This really hit close to home, esp.:
    ‎”I still remember Mary saying “He knows.” It’s that fresh in my mind today; it was that powerful. So she leans over and whispers into his ear, “Paul, I love you more than anything.” It was such a beautifully-tragic moment. It resonates in my soul to this very day.”
    Because it reminded me of one of the last times I saw my grandfather. He was in the hospital for a month after having a serious stroke. Most of the time he acted young (as much as he could for being 83 and stuck in a bed) but once in a while you could tell he remembered who we were.

  69. That wasn’t easy to read as the sadness hit really hard. Alzheimer disease always comes along with this kind of feeling, but your story and your pictures also made me cry for hope that is not always only sadness and abandonment.
    Thank you for sharing.

  70. This was truly beautiful….both my grandma’s suffered from this horrible disease….thank you for capturing the beauty of it…wonderful piece.

  71. Amazing. My grandfather had Alzheimer’s. The pictures are so beautiful. Reading this gave me goosebumps. I remember telling my grandfather that I was getting married. It looked as though he was putting an imaginary puzzle together. He stopped, took my hand and put it on my fiance’s hand. I knew he was giving us his blessing.

  72. I believe this is the best thing I’ve ever read on WordPress. It reminded me of my dad, who died of ALS and numerous other diseases (it’s hard to know exactly what killed papa). At the end of his life, he was in a nursing home and unable to communicate or do anything on his own. The last time I saw him, I gave him a picture of me and all he did was cry.😦

  73. Such a beautiful and sad story. My Mom has Alzheimer’s. She’s had it for about 8 years and it is so sad to watch crumbling in front of me. I keep thinking I will write a blog about her. I guess it would be therapy for me in dealing with this dreaded disease.

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    • I waited to begin until I read the story about giving him the mints. My mother is the 3rd generation with this diagnosis. Some days I fool myself into believing this prior experience is to my benefit. Some days, like today, I am thankful she can still speak. Some days, like yesterday, I am scared. Scared for her after our conversation. Scared for me, that I will surely follow in my family’s link to this long farewell. Some days I hope no one asks about her to excuse myself from replaying painful memories. Some days I hope people ask about her, to allow me to move along in the grieving process. Most days. . . I thank God for the wonderful mother she has been to me. And now I’m crying again.

  75. Such a beautiful post and such compelling photos. My mother-in-law struggled with Alzheimer’s for many years. She was only in her late 50s when her symptoms started. I wrote a short story about her heartbreaking journey. Thank you for this one.

  76. Thank you for sharing this most beautiful, yet tragic story. My grandmother lived with Alzheimer’s for almost 25 years before she passed away at 84. You have captured here the true essence of marriage and love, loyalty … put also sadness and loss. Thank God this world is fleeting and once the cage is broken and falls away, the soul soars with freedom, joy and delight.

  77. Wow…i can’t even begin to express how much the picture of Mary whispering to Paul touches my heart. I work in long term care/retirement and this disease is something I have seen take many peoples memories and lives away and it is a very, very sad disease, that I hope I will see a cure for in my lifetime.

  78. I work for the Alzheimer’s Association in Northern California and I hear stories from families dealing with this disease on a daily basis. However, I have never seen photographs that capture the pain and devastation of caregiver and patient as powerfully as yours. Thank you for sharing Paul and Mary’s story. Back in 1988, the Association was a baby – we are now in every state (but Alaska) and offer programs and services for the 5.4 million Americans suffering from AD. along with their caregivers and family members . People are no longer alone. Our 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900) and website ( are a great place to find support and answers. People can join the cause by getting involved in Walk to End Alzheimer’s, found in 600 communities across the country. Posts such as yours bring awareness to the cause, and we greatly appreciate that.

  79. Thanks for sharing those words and photos. My Mom is in the middle of a battle with Alzheimer’s now. Until someone goes through it, it’s hard to really understand the layers of pain it brings to husbands and wives, sons and daughters, and even grandkids. I wrote about it on a couple of posts a while back “Nothing Left to Do But Drive” and “She Remembers My Name” and hearing people’s responses always helps. God bless.

  80. My in-law is recently diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer, and we have just started learning about this sad disease. Thanks for sharing the touching story, it helps us to better equip with what’s coming ahead.

  81. it’s only 8 am where i’m at and this has me crying into my morning coffee. my grandpa was diagnosed with dementia too and like you, i had to stay away because it hurt too much to see him “trapped” that way.

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  83. Very moving, the undying love photo is timeless. Its a subject that both scares me and makes my heart sad but needs to be voiced. Thank you for sharing.

  84. What a wonderful story of love. Their love for each other shone brighter than ever on their late years. God bless Paul’s soul and may Mary have all the comfort she needs until Paul and her, will meet again.

  85. What a great story. The pictures are worth a million words, really. What a strong and devoted wife, we can all learn a thing a two from her. It must have been so overwhelming to be there when he ate the mint candy. So happy that he was remembering but knowing he would soon forget. Thanks for posting this.

  86. You have so many comments here, I don’t know that mine will add much . . . we lost my mother-in-law this past spring to Alzheimer’s. She was diagnosed about ten years ago, although I saw signs of it years before that. I lost both my parents to cancer (my mother to breast cancer at the age of 42 when I was just 13, and my dad to esophageal cancer.) Neither one was a picnic, but both were far better than this disease. Please continue to spread this beautiful story.

  87. Alzheimer’s is the long goodbye. thank you for writing Paul and Mary’s story and for you wonderful photographs. I lost my Dad to Alzheimer’s as everyone loses an Alzheimer’s patient in small bits but ultimately my Dad died of a stroke before he reached the point where he could not communicate for which I am thankful. I am thankful as well we had an early diagnosis because it gave us time to say the long goodbye and to cherish all of the time that we did have more with more clarity

  88. hmm… nice post. a very touching article readers, but gives us many lessons about loyalty and love one another.. thanks for share

  89. My grandmother is going through the first stages of dimentia and it is heart breaking to realize that she realizes that she is losing herself. Everyday is a process a new journey of understanding this devistating disease.

  90. Incredibly moving story and images.
    I was especially moved by your own honesty when you described how difficult it was for you to see your own grandfather ravaged by his dementia. People often don’t talk about that aspect of it, and caregivers and family members often don’t know how to process the complex experience of seeing one you love slipping away.

  91. You will probably get a lot of replies like this: My father had Parkinsonian dementia and my mother had some sort of dementia, possibly Alzheimer’s (no autopsy, and I think that’s still how they confirm the diagnosis). Because my father progressed much earlier than my mother and they lived far from any of us kids, we didn’t realize until a year or so after my father died how far gone my mother was. I think her condition was masked because she was trying to help my father. The last couple of years of both of their lives were sad and difficult. I still feel bad about living so far away that I couldn’t see them a lot. My mother and I would have identical phone calls day after day after day, and she never realized it. The last time I visited her, I brought her things to eat every day. One day I brought an amazing cupcake, probably the best I’ve ever had. We shared it (she couldn’t eat much). I still remember her taking a bite and saying loudly and clearly (rather than her usual mumble), “This is delicious!” Small pleasures were so big at that time. I try to remember that about both of them now and to appreciate the small pleasures now. Tried and trite, but true, true, true, this is what builds a life.

    Thanks for your beautiful photos of a tender relationship and for prompting these memories.

  92. To be honest, when I clicked your post in the Global Dashboard I was not expecting something extraordinary. I thought it was compressed chronicle of experiences. But the pictures and your words kept me holding on to your post. It brought silent tears inside my heart. Alzheimers is a disease that brings more than painful physical suffering. The pain thrives in the heart of the patient and his family. Thank you for giving me a great and heart warming read this morning.

    And congratulations for making it the freshly pressed. This post truly deserves it.

  93. Thank you for sharing this story. I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s.

    I think the hardest thing for me wasn’t watching the disease take its toll on her life. It was watching my dad in the of losing his mother. I wasn’t close to my grandmother, but her struggling with Alzheimer’s affected me. I kept wondering how I would take it if my mom suffered that same way. I love both of my parents, but I’m closer to my mom.

    Imagining that, I knew how how strong my father had to be to continue visiting my grandmother, who stayed with my aunt, my father’s older sister. He had to be strong to keep visiting a mother who wouldn’t know who he was some days and recognized him on others.

    Thank you again for this post.

  94. The photographs are spectacular, but what is even more spectacular, to me, is the courage and strength of the person behind the lens. The courage of the photographer. I’m scared to even shoot people on the streets, and I can’t imagine the strength it took to be able to take these priceless, timeless photographs. Even if you were “walled” up when you took them, I’ll never believe that a little part of you wasn’t about to break taking these and pushed through it to create art.

  95. What a beautiful story through photography. My grandfather died of Alzheimer’s also. What a sad tragic death. My grandmother took care of him for as long as she could before he went into hospice. I saw him the day before he died and it was so very sad. I commend you for not taking your camera to the funeral. You may have taken some touching photographs but it is good that you did as you would have wanted.

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  97. “I still remember Mary saying “He knows.” It’s that fresh in my mind today; it was that powerful. So she leans over and whispers into his ear, “Paul, I love you more than anything.” It was such a beautifully-tragic moment. It resonates in my soul to this very day.”

    This is unconditional love. It is so rare these days…
    Thank you for sharing.

  98. Your story brought back memories of my grandmother who also had alzheimers. My grandfather cared for her as long as he could. Finally, she was in a nursing home, but he spent every day with her until she passed away. On her birthday, I visited and took a hymn book. In the day room I played and sang for two hours. Although she hadn’t spoken or acknowledged anyone in months, her lips mouthed the words as I played. My grandfather sat and wept.

  99. This post reminds me of my grandfather, but also on my brother who has cerebral palsy, and uses the same hoist lifter. My brother is trapped in his own body. Unable to walk or take care of himself. I have a post about him in my blog (“Wheelchair bound”). Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

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  101. Thank you so much for this story! My grandmother is currently falling in Mary’s heroic footsteps by taking care of my grandfather who is 83 and is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Like Paul, he also can no longer walk. My grandmother refuses to send my grandfather to a nursing home, so my family and I visit them frequently and help her out as much as possible so that my grandpa can stay at home (where he belongs) for as long as he possibly can. I don’t remember my granparents being openly expressive about their love for each other while growing up, but watching my grandma now essentially devote her life to the man that she has loved for over 40 years is the most touching thing I’ve ever witnessed. Reading your post just reaffirmed how much I am grateful to have my grandparents in my life so they can still teach their 32-year-old granddaughter a thing or two about life and love. So…thank you!

  102. great shot!it speaks about love, eternal love that should always be entails not sacrifice nor responsibility but only love itself…suddenly got a thought that what if i would grow old, who would take care of me?will there be someone who would take after me.?i hope so..good script!

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  104. your photos are so beautiful.. I kinda wondered why you had ’em in B&W.. but then I realised that THAT made it even more sad and beautiful. I usually don’t cry very easily, but this had me in tears.
    R.I.P Paul.

    • At the time, color was also not an accepted medium in newspapers. It wasn’t quite there technically and was still fairly expensive. Plus, I can’t see this story in color. The lighting is what gives these photos mood and tone.

  105. a powerful story. Congratulations for being freshly pressed almost seems trite, yet I am glad this piece was. Otherwise I may have never found it.

    Thank you for sharing.

  106. Touching story. My grandmother has it too. She always thinks that she is a child now and doesn’t realise she has a daughter and grandchildren, even when some of them live with her and asks to see her own mother, who passed away a long time ago. Our family is not in the same country unfortunately as her but our aunt lives with he and we have my mum’s cousin employed as her carer. Our grandfather died before I was born. We always send her medicine from here though.

  107. Thank you for sharing this story. I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s.

    I think the hardest thing for me wasn’t watching the disease take its toll on her life. It was watching my dad in the of losing his mother. I wasn’t close to my grandmother, but her struggling with Alzheimer’s affected me. I kept wondering how I would take it if my mom suffered that same way. I love both of my parents, but I’m closer to my mom.

  108. What strength and courage it takes from the person suffering…..people always tell of the strength and courage of the care-giver, but rarely do you get insight into the person who is “trapped” by this illness and tortured in many ways. Thank you for giving me that perspective. I will not look at the illness the same.

  109. I’m crying right now, my uncle has been battling Alzheimer’s for years and its the most painful disease to watch someone suffer from, along with cancer. Thank you for this story- it was beautiful.

  110. This made me cry. My mother has Alzheimer’s, but no way have I experienced the illness as Mary did. I believe there is a special place in heaven for people like her.

  111. m
    My godfather just died. He had Alzheimer. His last years were so…….oh, my, God, I don’t know how could my godmother resist, but it must have been a big love. She dind’t give up a moment and fight every moment, took care of him all the time.
    It’s a terrible disease and it’s ever harder for the relatives, for people that stand to by the ill person. It’s frustrating for them all.

  112. Beautiful pictures and so well written. It brought a tear to my eye. My grandmother cared for my grandfather when we became ill with Alziemers. Like Mary, she did not want to see him in a nursing home. She jepordized her own health just to look after him. That is what true love is.
    I always find comfort in knowing my grandfather died, I’m certain, knowing how loved it was. I think Mary did that for Paul also.

  113. I would like to add to the many comments already contributed, my admiration to you for your beautiful work, and to this wonderful couple. The love expressed in this marriage is an inspiration for those of us who have been married many years (44 years) and approaching the future years with challenges of “becoming elderly”. I also worked 40 years with the State, with clients who were disabled and elderly, who resided in the community and nursing homes. Seeing clients and talking with families was not only a job but a blessing. We sometimes forget that love and kindness actually exist and these photos and story are a testament to this. Thank you!

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  115. Your photos and story are beautiful. My Mom has Alzheimers and has been in a nursing home since my Dad’s death in 2004. It is a sad, slow loss of living. The person is still with us, but Mom and Grandma left long ago.

  116. I’ve tried scanning negatives into a Photoshop type software program and reversing the image — fair results. You might try it. PS — love your story. But, more than the story, love love love the photographs! God bless you.

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  119. Indeed, what everyone else already have said; wow. Thank you for sharing.
    Having worked in a nursing home and now seeing the early stages in my own dad, it is full on to realise what lies ahead of him, and mum. Even more, i’m on the other side of the world and am not allowed to move home (child’s father from a different nationality).

  120. Beautiful story – tear-jearking and a story of true love. Some diseases steel everything out of a person – but when that person has people that care about him, that person has an immidiate protector. Mary was his protector…

  121. what a wonderful story and how beautifully you have written it. A lovely gesture to go to the funeral and I am sure you had the opportunity to say goodbye to your Grandfather too. Try not be too hard on yourself for not seeing him again, it is really difficult to see people in that situation. My mother died over 26 years ago, albeit from a stroke not Alzheimer’s but it was really hard for my sisters and myself as we were quite young still and although I had time to say goodbye, they did not. We were to visit the hospital in the evening and we missed it by an hour or so. We have all regretted not being there when she died and having the chance to say goodbye, but I death comes and we are not always there. My belief is to let my loved ones know how much they mean to me while they can hear the message and I can say it….I tell my daughter every day that I love her. We may not be together when the time comes. Your photos are beautiful and truely poignant, what a wonderful gift. I am sure mary appreciates that you captured these lovely times and that she is able to keep them close to her heart. I work as a Carer for the elderly and infirm and it is difficult enough as a stranger, her gift to Paul was amazing and I am sure in his lucid moments he really appreciated her support and love. How generous.
    Thank you for sharing this lovely story. By the way, if you havent yet, it’s never too late to say goodbye.
    All the best

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  123. Mind-blowing post and yes, Alzheimer’s is a scary disease which not only robs the mind but also takes away one’s abilities. However, it takes unconditional love and patience to attend to a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

  124. As a doctor I have cared for many people with Alzheimer’s. It is so often that I see them in the office setting and so rare if ever that I see them at home (the house call being a ritual I mainly perform for my actively dying patients). In the exam room, tender emotions of family members take a back seat to their frustrations that the disease is taking such a toll on the faculties of their loved one and the plea for help in how to handle him or her. Your post serves as one of my occasional reminders that my patients have three dimensions. Thanks. By the way, the photos are beautiful.

  125. Your story brought tears to my eyes… It hits so close to home. I recognize the hoist, the wheelchair outside, the facial expression of a loved one trapped… My nature-loving father is 89 and has been living with this cruel disease for ten years now, the last three wheelchair-bound. And my grandmother died of it in 1996, her last year or so in a nursing home because my grandfather could no longer care for her… Your photos capture the pain, but also the deep love of those struggling to care for their dear ones. I cried more the day my grandmother no longer recognized me than the day she died five months later. Thank you for sharing…

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  128. So beautiful…and painful. My father-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year ago and he and his wife are in the process of transitioning into an assisted living community. I’m taking as many photos as I can…because I read somewhere that it’s usually a photograph of a loved one that gives a moment of clarity in an otherwise strange and confusing world.

  129. Your story reminded me how my grandma suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.She has 10 children but only recognized her youngest son.She keeps on looking for him which lead her to nowhere.She even walked a thousand miles just to find him but not to realized that he just lived on nearby house.

  130. You have done a fantastic job in capturing a true love story. The written words along with the photography enable me, as well as any other reader, to feel as though I am right there in the midst of the purest form of love.

    A true love story…. thanks for sharing and reminding us all about the importance of commitment to our loved ones.

    Tears, tears, tears.

  131. This was an incredible piece which absolutely moved me to tears. I can’t imagine anything worse than losing the person you love to this disease. It’s the scariest thing in the world. I sit here in awe, tears streaming down my face, moved by the undying love and the unrelenting tragedy.

  132. It is hard even now to see through my tears, the memories of my grandfather though buried for many years still linger close, thank you for the tribute to all who are in one way or another impacted by this tragic disease!

  133. My Great-Grandma had Alzheimer’s, I went to see her in 2006 I remember because it was the day her Daughter (my Grandma) had a stress induced stroke. I went to see her with my Mum. I stood by the door while my Mum dealt with all the bits she needed to do. Great Grandma looked up at my Mum from her chair and looked puzzled – who was this girl stood at the door – she didn’t need to ask the question I knew she didn’t remember me.

    Following this I’d only seen her twice I think before her death last year. She passed away last year a few days before Christmas. It was sad but in a way I’d already said goodbye – I had a little cry when My Mum told me she’d gone but in a way I’d already dealt with my grief. I was there for my Mum and My Grandma while they dealt with loosing their Grandma/Mother.

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  135. What’s one more tiny comment of appreciation for a beautiful story shared? Sigh. One heart touched like the sight of one last sunset. I’ve been touched. Thank you.

    • I like this comment. And I wouldn’t be able to handle a closing picture of Mary walking alone. Just thinking about it is making me cry.

  136. Beautifully humane, stunning. My grandmother and my best friend’s grandmother are both going this route, and so far, I have not found words, much less images, to describe the way we feel. You use the word ‘trapped;’ yes. And the love we feel naturally wants freedom for the ones we love, even if that means losing them.
    Thank you sincerely.

  137. great story! it shows that really there undying love. the method how Mary shows her love to Paul make me cry. Paul should be have a happy life in Heaven now. ^-^

  138. This story is just beautiful. Last month my uncle died. He had dementia, it was so hard to help him. Thanks for sharing your point of view.

  139. Your story is beautiful and made me weep. In a cruel world full of pain and suffering, Mary and Paul are an awesome reminder that true love is alive.

  140. Thank you for sharing their story. It was lovely and touching.

    I was the caretaker for a man with Alzheimer’s for the last 9 months or so of his life. It was my first experience with the disease, and it was shocking to see him decline so rapidly. He could still walk with assistance when he came to live at the group home, but within months he was wheelchair bound, and he kept declining. He was unable to talk except to say “No!” when he was afraid.

    I kind of had a moment with him when I took him to see Santa at Christmastime. Apparently, it had been his favorite time of year, and the joy on his face when I brought him to get his photo taken is something I will never forget.

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  142. Beautiful work, so touching and compelling, so valid for millions of family members dealing with this brutal disease.

    I used to live in Chicago and I remember your name from the newspaper. I still struggle with digital photography. I am also striving to love photography again and do something with it. It will come for us. Only wish I had the talent and expertise you have. With time…

  143. I read this at work, a co-worker passed and thought that I had something wrong with me! Needless to say this story and the photos are beautiful. This story of love is what every person tries to achieve one day!

    Great work!

  144. I am unusually lost for words. A genuinely moving post that raised the hair on the back of my neck. Well written and illustrated beautifully with emotion-capturing photographs. Thanks for sharing x

  145. This entry is so close to home. My mom was recently placed in a home. She suffers from dementia and I feel it may be early Alzheimer’s. Thank you for posting this. It’s a lonely thing to go through, even as a child of one who suffers. This helps make the world feel a little less vast.

  146. Stunning, heartwarming/breaking photos, and what a story to go with them. I had a grandmother go through Alzheimer’s, and it was probably five or six years before we first recognized the onset. I was only ten years old when it all began, and I know that for me it was Hell. If only I could get an idea of what it was like for her… and even though she forgot who we all were, even though she replaced us with older faces she saw in her mind, I never doubted that she knew we loved her. I knew she loved me.

    What a wonderful reminder of how love bears all things. Thank you for this post, I’ll be sure to keep following!

  147. Thank you for sharing heart to heart through your words and photos. Very moving and award winning in my book. It resonated with so many in that deep place of their spirit. Be blessed!

  148. If I were to speak this comment out, it would have been impossible at this moment. I can understand what you must have gone through when you wrote this story.

  149. This was beautiful…heart-wrenching, but so, so beautiful. My grandfather has Alzheimer’s as well, but it hasn’t progressed as severely as Paul’s. Still, it can be very difficult to watch. This post was amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  150. I’m not often lost for words. Do I comment on the story, the picutres, or the disease. Two amazing, and one horrific. I understand there is much to be learned from the story but I’m sure the images will haunt me tonight as I drift off to sleep. I’m not sure I would have the strength Paul and Mary showed. In fact I doubt I’d have the strength to write the story or take the photos. It makes me think of those I love. Sometimes stories make us think about others and some make us think about ourselves and this makes us think about both. I shall go away chastened!

  151. Costco will scan your negatives and digitize them for you, cheap and definitely looks like you archive some beautiful work. Love these photos and such a great way to tell this couple’s story.

    Good stuff.

  152. This made me cry like it did so many others. I don’t have the right words to express what I really want to say but your words and your photos touched me the minute I saw Paul’s picture. God bless Paul and all others like him.

  153. Scott, I hope you continue to photograph because your work is touching, moving and so beautiful. I’m a freelance graphic designer and photographer and more than a decade ago, I was working freelance for the Visiting Nurse Association in Northern Virginia, doing marketing, design and photography. My first photography assignment with them was to the home of a woman in her late 40s who was caring for her late-stage-Alzheimer’s mother. I’ve been shooting photos since high school and hadn’t done anything really journalistic until this shoot. The woman was in her late 80s and her disease was quite advanced. I think it takes a very special person to be able to slip in and out of a story and record it with such beauty and dignity. It was difficult for me because I felt like I was intruding. The daughter had approved my being there, though, so I was able to continue on. It was quite emotional and I did get some great photos despite my trepidation. A few assignments later, I photographed a woman in her early 40s who was diagnosed with ALS. That was REALLY an emotional photo shoot because she was being interviewed by a freelance writer during the session and her story was so emotional. Bless you for being able to capture beauty and this couple’s love during a debilitating time.

  154. Wow. Just wow. At least you know there’s one thing Alzheimer’s can’t take from you. Thank you for capturing their unconditional love on camera.

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  156. i just read this at work and had to struggle to keep it together. such an emotional story, written beautifully. my grandfather is in the early stages of alzheimer’s and every time i see him it gets harder and harder. i think it’s even harder on my dad (and his siblings) but hardest on my grandma. what a horrible disease. thank you for your lovely post.

  157. This is an amazing story. My father has dementia, had a stroke and my mother attemtped to care for him in the home until he had both legs removed in 2007. That decision still haunts us. Being the only nurse in the family, I still hold that tremendous guilt for being a free spirit although I spent several years visiting him nearly each day. The only solace I find is recalling his words years ago telling us to see the world and live our lives. He always has been and always will be my hero.

  158. This is a really touching story. I can relate because my grandmother was diagnosed with dimentia a few years back, and is slowly deteriorating but we’re striving through. This is a coincidence seeing as today I posted my short story about a carer of a dimentia sufferer on my blog. If you’re interested please take a look. Beautiful story. She’s an inspirational woman.

  159. I want this to be my work in the future.
    I love your photos, I love your story. This story touches me a lot, my friend’s husband suffer from dementia and from Parkinson. Both medications for these diseases interacts and kills the effect of the other. Their life’s a pain… And it will get to this… Makes me sad for them, and for everyone who’s near from someone who has this disease.

  160. Wow, this is such a beautiful story. My grandfather suffers from dementia/atztimer’s as well, and reading this really made me hink of my grandparents. Mary and my grandmother have a lot in common. It’s a terrible disease and it’s sad to see the people that we love go through something like that.

  161. A wonderful story. Out of all the horrid diseases out there, this is one of the most painful to endure as a loved one of the victim. I can’t imagine what Mary must have gone through.

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  163. A sad and beautiful story! Unfortunately my dad is in the pre-period of suffering the Alzheimer disease, he begins to happen amnesia, really I hope he can have an easy life in the future. I love you, dad!

  164. Your photos are a such a priceless accompaniment to a story so beautifully expressed.

    My grandfather was disabled after he fought in a war. My grandmother cared for him for the rest of his life. He, too, died in his sleep.

    These photos cement a beautiful relationship. Thank you for posting.

  165. What a beautiful post! They are absolutely amazing pictures to accompany the story, and brought tears to my eyes, they were so powerful!
    Dementia runs strongly in my family, so I will certainly be sharing this with my family members.
    I also worked in aged care, specialising in dementia care…it was the most humbling experience of my life, but also the most emotional.
    Thank you so much for sharing this story. It truly was amazing!

  166. My grandparents both suffered from Dementia. One of the last times I saw my grandmother, she had a rare lucid moment, and it was not a happy one because she realized things she didn’t want to realize…I wish we could have done more for her. She was a great lady, so smart and so kind.

  167. Pingback: The Deeply Moving love story of Paul and Mary « Soul Needs …………… spirit moves

  168. My heart was touched gravely after reading this story. Your treatise reminds me how fragile human life is. I am a trainee Doctor, a MBBS graduate. And this will always be a lesson for me. In my journey in healthcare many such cases will come and go. But very rarely will it be possible to know the other side of the story, the patient’s view of the whole process. Thank you for sharing the life of Paul with us.

  169. This is absolutely beautiful – The photos and the story behind them. Alzheimers is such a heartbreaking disease and it is terrible to watch someone you love going through it. My grandmother had it for many years, but luckily she died of cancer before she could reach the stage of not being able to communicate.

  170. My grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s too. my Granpa lost his lega in a car accident when his best friend hit him with his car, drunk. and my grandpa has cancer, so he can not move properly even though he has a wheelchair. Still, he has to do everything for my Granny because he loves her so much but she doesn’t even recognize him most of the time. She’s grouchy and shouts at him most of the time because she feels insecure, I think. It has been like this for a very long time, my granny’s solid, she won’t die, I think, the next 10 years. But my grandfather will. the only thing that keeps him alive is the thought that he has to care for his wife until she dies. The Alzheimer makes it impossible for my grandfather to get help – my granny would not understand and without her he won’t go anywhere.
    Thank you so much for creating awareness. You seem to know what you’re talking about. Keep this up.

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  173. What an absolutely beautiful post. So touching and the photography is AMAZING! I can’t imagine the grief of losing your best friend of so many years and special moments together. I just joined 350 other people who liked (loved!) this post.

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  175. Our family is beginning the process now with my maternal grandfather. It’s terrifying and bleak at times, but at the base of it is love. And that sustains us no matter what. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story!

  176. My grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s’ and it is very debilitating disease. I’m sometimes depressed seeing how the disease has changed her from what she once was to the person she is now knowing that there is no cure.

  177. For some reason, I keep running smack into the painful reality of death this week. It is a new experience for me. I haven’t had to deal with it much in my life before. And it has been difficult trying to find hope in the midst of it, as I have committed to in my recent history. This story, and your portrayal of it, made it easy. No matter the pain, no matter the suffering, no matter the inevitable “goodbye”, there can be Love. Right in the midst of it all. Outlasting and outshining all fear, bitterness, and despair. Thank you for sharing this.

  178. Pingback: Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease story-1988 (via rantings of a loon) « holisticlivingforyp

  179. I am so pleased to have stumbled across your blog. Thank you so much for sharing this with the rest of the world. My maternal grandfather & my paternal grandmother also suffered from Alzheimers. This post made me take a stroll though memory lane, it made me weep out of joy at being able to witness such love, to hope & pray for me to be like them, made me admit to my own shortcomings, made me feel blessed for being able to have a memory. Have always been a fan of black & white photography and your work is beautiful. I loved that you chose the shot of them together as the closer for the story…and that you went there as a friend.

  180. Thank you for beautifully expressing what millions are experiencing today. My father in-law died two months ago, after ???? years of enduring Alzheimer and it’s complications. I appreciate your humane reaction to the situation you meant on your line of duty.

  181. Thank you for this. It’s so painful to read your beautiful story and look at the achingly beautiful photos, it hurts to be reminded of what my late mum went through with Alzheimer’s until she passed away in 2004. Like Paul, she wasn’t in a nursing home. Thankfully she had many children. Although all my elder siblings are married, there were 5 of us who actively cared for her including financially. Medical care can get expensive here in Singapore; I definitely could not have coped alone.

    Instead of nursing home, my siblings and I decided to get a domestic helper from Indonesia, this wonderful lady Khalijah who once worked for my sister. She came back and became my mum’s dedicated carer, following her wherever my mum stayed. We all have our own places and took turns to have the privelege of having mum over for a fortnight or so. I am eternally grateful to Khalijah because she helped to care for our mum like her own mother.

    Thank you again for relating the story of Paul and Mary.

  182. Beautiful! Already feeling teary after watching Torchwood, then you just set me off again. My parents are going to wonder what’s wrong with me, my eyes are all red.

  183. Heart Warming… A rare example of undying and selfless love… comes more like a shock to someone too caught up in the grind of today’s trying times…
    Thanks for sharing this… It is therapeutic in many inexplicable ways… : )
    And congrats for being freshly pressed! Well deserved..

  184. Pingback: Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease story-1988 (via rantings of a loon) | blackwalkingman

  185. An absolutely amazing story.
    I’m so happy it was freshly pressed so that I could have a chance to read it.
    So very touching.
    we are all human.
    thank you for this.

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  187. I have no idea how it happened that I stumbled over this post. It’s as if you were with me when I thought about these things so many times lately – not in fear but with a wide open heart. These pictures say more than words could ever say. Thank you for this fabulous piece of art and for sharing this incredibly inspiring story. You say you’re a teacher now – how could this ever be taught better than with such pictures?

  188. I have to say that this hit home for me, As a son going through the loss of my father ( In the Mental form ) at a very pivotal part of my life I can relate to the emotions gained as well as the memories LOST. I feel for any one going through the everyday fight with a parent or loved one suffering with Alzheimers!
    I have to say though great work, I photograph my dad throughout this ordeal as well and the changes in his over all visual were just overwhelming.. I am so very great full that he is still alive with us.. His name is Foster V Zeh – He is a Marine that fought for his country, and one hell of father.. Proud American He will always be… Thanks, Foster Zeh JR

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  190. Wow. Great Article. The story of Paul is truly amazing and memorable. I am simply moved by the pictures you put online. Especially the part where Paul’s wife whispers to Paul she loved him. In news, we always see the latest tragedy, but we never see these moments in life. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. I hope you continue to write beautiful pieces such as this one.

  191. Thank you so much for sharing.
    I lost my paternal grandmother to Alzheimer’s. My grandfather kept her at home until the very end. It exhausted him, but he did it because he loved her. Though my grandfather and I were not especially close, that is perhaps the greatest impression anyone has made on me. I want to love like that.
    I recently lost my maternal grandfather, whom I had been much closer to. Fortunately, Granddad was in control of all him mental faculties until he passed. However, in a freak surgery/anesthesia occurrence, my mother and her siblings had to decide whether or not to continue life support – if they had, he would have lived in a un-comprehending state. What a difficult choice that some of us face (Alzheimer’s) or barely avoid (unplanned last-minute accidents).
    The only real choice we have is to love completely, unconditionally.

  192. such a beautiful way you told the story, I literally crying when I saw the picture “Mary whispers to Paul how much she loves him”. thank you so much for sharing with us. waiting for your next amazing post🙂

  193. Your photos capture it all… Last month I visited my friend Sally, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was only 52!, and now at age 65 is paralyzed and unable to speak, but I think is still with us because of the loving care she gets from her spouse.

  194. Thank you for sharing this.
    My Grandmother is starting to suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease, and it is slowly tearing my dad apart, and me too…

    Thank you once again, for sharing this.

    Arjun Kay

  195. I usually have to deal with Alzheimer’s on a fairly regular basis in my line of work. Everytime I do I tend to think of how my day is going to go with my patient… are they going to be trying to climb out of bed, are they going to be shouting all day or constantly asking the same questions, are they going to get violent… then I read this story and it pulled me back and really made me think.
    Being the caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, or any form of dementia for that matter, is not for the faint of heart. It requires patience, endurance, compassion, empathy, and a good heart. I cannot imagine having to care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease 24/7… sometimes I can barely get through a 12 hour shift. It takes a lot of love to make sure they get the kind of care they deserve. Thanks for puling me out of my rutt!

  196. Pingback: Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease story-1988 (via rantings of a loon) « Fratellomio

  197. This is so much worth reading. I remember when my Mama was bedridden and my Papa took care of her. Really, true love knows no bounds. Thanks so much for sharing this. Was literally crying.

  198. Pingback: Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease story-1988 (via rantings of a loon) « Bedraggled in the Wind

  199. This is a real tearjerker. I have great feel for elderly people, since I help min taking care of my grandmother. These people are in need of more love, care, attention and patience from us.

    Wonderful story!

  200. Pingback: The Story of Unconditional Love – Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease story-1988 (via rantings of a loon) « with a hint of nonsense

  201. My aunt died of Alzheimer’s. I was the one who alerted the family of its onset. At Thanksgiving she called me by my grandmother’s name. No one ever called me that. I went to see her once after she was incarcerated behind automatic gates that kept her safely locked inside. I never went back. It takes great courage to say that you weren’t strong enough. I’m a christian and I am reminded that God says that Jesus is acquainted with our weakness and has given us grace sufficient to make up for our shortcomings. God bless you on your journey through life.

  202. What a very touching story.. and meaningful photos..
    I thought a love story like this can only happen in books and movies just like “The Notebook”. But here, the story of Mary and Paul is a living proof that love knows no boundaries.

    Oh and I definitely agree with who said,
    “Life is a journey and the people we meet remind us of what LIFE is about…love.”

    Anyway, thank you for sharing this! I hope you capture more photos and share with us the wonderful stories behind them.🙂

  203. Beautifully written and photographed. These diseases are so devastating because the people we know and love are inside somewhere. It is so important to continue to love and be with them throughout their ordeal. Thank you for reminding us

  204. Beautiful. This captures how truly awful, and also awe-inspiring loving someone with Alzheimer’s can be. I, like so many of your other readers, am holding back the tears.

  205. What a great, well written post. My great-grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s and has so for nearly 20 years. She is in her 80s and in perfect health except for this disease. I wouldn’t wish the horrible disease upon anyone. Thank you for writing about it!

    (congrats on being Freshly Pressed btw!)

  206. I stumbled upon your excellent photo story and was extremely moved by the pictures, they tell a story far better than any words can. I work for a UK charity running centres for people with Alzhiemers and dementia. I see the gradual deterioration and people becoming trapped in their own minds, I watch the wifes, husbands, carers loose their best friend and the pain and despair this causes them. However there are ways to communicate, to reach them. You demonstrated this with the Frangos but there are many other ways, depending upon the diseases progression, to communicate. Old photos, talking about the past, playing old music and listening to what they say or acknowledging their response all help to relieve the frustration of both the sufferer and the carer. We even manage to have a laugh or find a smile in that trapped mind. Once again well done on an excellent blog.

  207. Pingback: “Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease story – 1988″ « Columbia news, views & reviews

  208. For one reason or another, I can’t see all of this text, stuff keeps hiding? Are you utilising javascript?

    • Not sure what the problem is, but I’m assuming it’s on your side since you are the first person (out of almost 14,000 hits) to mention this. Check your browser. I’m using Chrome, Safari and Firefox and haven’t had an issue. Sorry.

  209. Pingback: Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease story-1988 (via rantings of a loon) |

    • Nope. This was done in 1988 and was photographed in b&w, Tri-x (the good old days), and was published in a paper with about 11,000 copies made. Ironically, I’ve received nearly 14,000 hits since it made FP. This is way before convergence was even a possibility in newspapers.
      I’m attempting to find a copy of it and am going to try to reproduce it. If I can, I’ll probably post a pdf on my blog. I don’t even know if I have a copy of it I can find. I’m still not sure if I’ll post it because of copyright. This was all retold from memory and written by me. It’s 100 % true. Sorry there is no video.

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  215. Amazing piece, so moving. It reminded me of when I watched the slow death my grandmother experienced when I was 10 years old.

  216. incredible love. I watched my opa in the grips of it when he could still walk. I wish i had found out ways to connect with his past. “He remembers” If only we all had that love and commitment.

    thank you

  217. Pingback: Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease story-1988 (via rantings of a loon) « razvv

  218. As so many others, I was extremely moved by this post. My own grandfather just died to Alzheimer’s this winter. He too died in his sleep, in a nursing home. It was really tough watching such a strong man become weak, we were very close. Thank you.

  219. Pingback: Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease story-1988 (via rantings of a loon) « Searching for my Goddess

  220. my brother has this disease he is 58 but it started mild at 45 he is not the brother i knew and grew up with i lost him a while ago now he looks blank at me and doesnt know im the one who teased him now i wish his life would end that sounds wicked but he would hate being like he is he was so good looking a really smart man the disease has him in its grip i hope soon it lets him go to my mums arms xxjen

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  222. Thank you so much for sharing. My grandad is in the early stages and he 70, he could have been worse but we’re grateful that he’s still here.

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  224. Such a beautiful, beautiful love story. I cannot stop crying. Thank you for sharing your insights and lovely photos.

  225. Pingback: Honored & Humbled | 6 Months to Live: The Experiment Continues

  226. ~Mr. DizzleDazzle, (aka Dalzell)
    This piece that you have written has much more power behind it than you may think. Do you realize the number of people’s lives you change everyday?! You certainly have changed mine since the first day of school when I met you for the first time, and I am eternally grateful for that. I think that if you present this piece to the class, not only would it make a humongous impact on all of us, but it’s a fantastic example of an expository/biography. It’s inspiring, and so are you.
    ~your student

    • And don’t question why I’m reading this at 12 in the morning, I started reading your blog at 10:30 and couldn’t stop, and just realized what time it was…so I’m not THAT weird.

    • I’m incredibly humbled by your wonderfully kind words. Seriously, thank you. I do plan on bringing my blog in, I just have to figuring out the timing. Thanks again.

  227. You read this to us in class today and I don’t know if you noticed, considering you called on me, but I was in tears and trying so hard not to show it. I just want to say that this is a beautiful tribute to compassion that this generation so helplessly lost, I am currently showing my family your blog, and my sister is asking if I am in here. But when she saw this she actually started to tear up a bit. So, now she wants to meet you. Also, my mom has a friend with Huntingtons disease which is like Alzimers. Im not very close to her but… This still reminded me of what is to come. Good luck with the blog!

    • Bri-
      Didn’t notice, but it may because I was trying to keep it together too. This is always challenging for me to bring into class. But thank you so much for the kind words. Bring your sister in to talk if she wants.
      On an added note, I’m looking through my blog and am going to use a letter I wrote to my daughter when she went off to school. It so fits within the memoir mode, but will be really tough for me to read too. It’s kind of looking back on our life together and reflecting on it. Bring the Kleenex….for me.

      • No problem, as long ad we can share! Also my sister is in third grade and loves to meet all of my teachers. And she wants me to ask why none of your students are in here, and by students… She means me.

      • I don’t put my students in my blog. Kind of creepy. Plus it’s a privacy thing for you guys. I can’t put your face out there and if you notice, I also edit out your emails.

  228. Ok I didn’t know what to tell her, but I knew it had to do with the whole privacy thing. Also, the letter you shared on your daughter made me sad, my mom is going to be starting school soon so… That letter gave me a GREAT idea on what to write to her!

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