Sadye Daggs was an amazing wife and mother, organ player, singer ... an altogether extraordinary person. She was quick-witted and humorous and always had an open door policy for friends and neighbors in need.
In 2001, when I was 19 years old, I learned that Grandma Sadye had Alzheimer’s disease.
She loved my grandfather, Percy Senior, dearly. My grandmother and grandfather were my first example of what a loving marriage (of 54 years!) could look like. Not only were they both pillars in the community, they created a culture of love and service in our family. We were taught that taking care of each other and taking care of others was important.
I wanted a life like theirs.
Growing up, my grandma and I would watch Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune and I would help her with crossword puzzles. I can remember her sitting at the organ the first time I played in front of my church congregation, when I recited Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, and the first and last time I sang a solo.
Years later, as her dementia progressed, I went to live with my grandma to help care for her for several months. That was when I truly became familiar with what Alzheimer’s disease was and how it affects a person you love.
Seeing this generous, joyous person not be her typical self wasn’t easy. Long gone were the days when she made her Sunday dinners with corn and potatoes and collard greens from my grandfather’s garden. Long gone were her sweet potato and apple pies.
Seeing her become agitated or upset about being unable to remember things was also difficult. Sometimes she thought my father was my grandfather, or that I was my father. Sometimes she didn’t know why I was in her house. That was particularly tough.
After years of helping others, a true person of service, she couldn’t even help herself. Our beloved Sadye passed away on September 30, 2013.
After losing the matriarch of the family, it was difficult for my father and his four sisters to heal. In order for us to comprehend the emotional ride of Alzheimer’s and watching Grandma fade through the years, our entire family became involved in the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Long Beach, California. As a third generation Long Beach kid, being able to join our community and unite as a family, remembering Grandma, sharing memories and talking to other people who have gone through the same thing was the best way to honor her memory and her life.
I am still working toward a life like hers.
I want to provide for my family. I want to use my voice and offer any support I can to honor her memory and help those with Alzheimer’s and their families. I will do this with all of my energy and spirit with strength from all of my family who came together to help support my grandma.
This disease makes people forget the loved ones and the special moments that are the most important to them. This disease can affect your mother, your sister or your wife. It can affect your father, your brother, your husband … or you.
Alzheimer's disease has devastated millions of lives, but we are still here, and we are fighting back. Grandma Sadye’s faith, wisdom, dignity and unconditional love will always be with me in that fight.
About Percy: Actor Percy Daggs III is best known for his role as Wallace Fennel in the television series “Veronica Mars”. The show returned on July 19 for its highly-anticipated fourth season on Hulu. Percy is an Alzheimer’s Association Celebrity Champion.