By Thomas Bowler
Dr. Pat Collins’ father always taught him as life goes on, you’ll be able to count your best friends on one hand, and one better be your brother.
Pat and his brother, Mike, were virtually one in the same. Born 16 months apart, they did everything together: playing instruments, fishing, sailing and more. They even had their weddings two weeks apart. Pat and Mike were best friends and couldn’t be separated.
Then, at the age of 58, Mike was diagnosed with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s disease. The diagnosis was unlike anything either had faced before, and it greatly impacted their relationship. On July 23, 2015, Mike passed away after living with Alzheimer’s disease for nearly ten years.
“I don’t know how many people have only one sibling and then that person you think you’re going to spend the last 20 years of your life doing stuff with comes down with Alzheimer’s and dies at 67” says Pat. “My hand has a broken finger that represents Mike. He’s gone now, but he’ll always remain my broken brother.”
Mike’s passing was tragic for his friends and family, but Pat and some friends took action to honor Mike’s memory and fight Alzheimer’s disease. Pat started “Mike Golf”, a cross country golf challenge held every year for The Longest Day. Last year, teams played in Idaho, Washington, and New Jersey. This year, the event will be in these states as well as California.
“I always think of the first (guitar) song that we learned together,” Pat said, referring to “Get Together” by the Youngbloods. “In the words of the song, it talks about, ‘You hold the key in your trembling hand. Just one key unlocks the door, it’s at your command.’ The key to Alzheimer’s is research. It’s the sixth-leading killer of Americans, and the only way it’s going to get solved is to elevate it to a higher priority.”
The Alzheimer’s Association appreciates Pat and his commitment to The Longest Day.
“Because of volunteers like Pat, the Alzheimer’s Association is able to provide support and resources to people in need. Participation in events like The Longest Day and Walk to End Alzheimer’s fight stigma, spread awareness, and support our vision of a world without Alzheimer’s”.
The Longest Day is all about love, love for all those affected by Alzheimer’s disease. No matter where you are, you can participate. On June 21, select an activity you love — or an activity loved by those affected — to help end Alzheimer’s.
We thank Pat and the Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press for being resources for this piece. Register for The Longest Day at thelongestday.alz.org.