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He sings to his mom on her porch, although she doesn't recognize home anymore.

His mom has an incurable disease, but he tells her that everything is going to be all right.

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Joe Fraley has been a musician for 14 years. He enjoys playing his tunes for his mom, Judy.

Like any supportive parent, she mostly digs it. So when he started strumming his guitar on their front porch just seven months ago, his mom happily bopped to the music.


But something was different about this jam session. Joe didn't know it, but he was playing for her for one of the last times at home.

He sang: "I'm feeling so happy. I finally feel like I've got no one to fight. ... I don't have to worry anymore."

But before he could belt out the lyrics, his mom said, "I'm getting very confused, honey." And after he finished, she asked, "Now how do you know where we are?"

"Everything is going to be OK," he answered.

A few days after he sang this hopeful song, Judy was placed in an assisted living facility near their home in Monrovia, California. Today she's in hospice care, battling late-stage Alzheimer's disease.

Joe and his family were told that there's nothing they could have done to prevent the progress of the incurable disease. According to the Alzheimer's Association, the illness severely affects the memory, thinking and behavior of millions of people nationwide. The majority of folks who battle Alzheimer's are 65 and older. Judy was 70 at the time of this video.

Joe told me in an email interview:

"By the time she was diagnosed she was fairly far along. We knew something was up for years. She kept forgetting things, told the same stories over and over again, her food taste changed. ...We feared it was Alzheimer's, but we put off taking her to the doctor because you kind of didn't want to know."

Joe then moved home to help take care of his mom. Looking back, he wishes that they had known sooner.

"Towards the end, having her at our house was basically a living nightmare," he said. "She was combative and having severe hallucinations. ... Seeing my mom confused and scared is the worst thing I've ever had to go through in my life."

He tries to think about who she was before her memory began to slip. Judy had been a therapist and teacher and had worked at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and at high schools throughout Los Angeles for decades. Cool stuff. But what Joe remembers most is that matter how bad someone felt, she could make them feel OK.

After Judy arrived at an assisted living facility, Joe went to play music for her. She doesn't always recognize him, but sometimes she claps along.

Other times she leaves the room.

With almost two-thirds of American's with Alzheimer's disease being women, Joe wants other families to know that they're not alone:

"Take care of your loved ones that have the disease; give them a good diet, exercise, and mental stimulation. But also never forget to take care of yourself too. The disease can hurt the caretakers almost as much as the people who have it."

Here's a sweet flashback to when John sang to his mom for one of the last times at home:


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The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

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All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

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This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


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