by Mark Cohan
Mark Cohan hasn’t seen his 93 year old mother in over 9 years, since before he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Team Gleason helped make his dream come true as he travelled from Maryland to Florida to do what he’s been wanting to do for almost a decade: hug his mom. Here’s what he had to say about his meaningful Adventure:
What a wonderful trip we had! It was a little stressful beforehand, worrying about what to bring and what I forgot to bring. I haven’t traveled anywhere since having ALS. Needless to say, I was quite nervous with all the unknowns. It was an amazing adventure.
Our driver came and picked us up and got us to the Amtrak at Union Station, early as planned. Right before getting to the station, a rock hit the back van window and shattered the glass. That was quite a surprise. After a few minutes and a little guidance, we were led down the elevator to the train.
I had to get on the lift and had a very large space with a table that folded out in front of me. Paula had two seats to herself across from me. The train was a great experience, albeit not a lot of sleep was taking place. We had a convenient restroom behind us that was accessible.
Fourteen stops later, we were in Jacksonville by 8 a.m. The driver I hired was there waiting for us at the train station. Lena, our driver, was amazing. We arrived at the Marriott early and had a fantastic breakfast. We asked for an early check-in if possible and they let us in our room at 10 am.
We were on the 6th floor with a panoramic view of the light blue/green Atlantic Ocean. The water was 86 degrees and we could hear all the beach noises, from seagulls, children laughing and families enjoying swimming in the pool below.
With the whole day ahead of us, we eagerly got changed and went down to the pool area where they had an outdoor bar and ability to order food poolside. It was perfect weather in the high 80’s and Paula and I relaxed and enjoyed the gentle breeze while sitting beneath a large blue umbrella.
My mom had moved into her assisted living facility on the 8th and was exhausted, so my family planned on coming the next day to dinner. At first I was disappointed but as the day went on, I was glad to rest and relax before seeing my mom and family tomorrow.
I was able to sleep in my chair very comfortably. As I got up to enjoy the 180 degree view from my balcony, Paula was able to run along Neptune beach. We had a wonderful routine of eating breakfast, followed by enjoying sitting poolside and having lunch beneath an outdoor umbrella.
The hotel staff was so accommodating to my needs. We found a high round table where I could raise the height of my chair to sit together comfortably. The food was amazing!
My sister called and said that they would be at the hotel at 6 p.m. I had no idea who else would be coming to dinner. We got dressed up and went down to the lobby when my sister said they arrived.
When the elevator door opened, I was face to face with my sister Linda and her husband, and life-long friend, Dana. I was overcome with emotion.
Little did I know that my brother Gary and his girlfriend Diane were right behind them. While I hugged them all, Paula went over to my mom, who was sitting in a chair by the front door, next to her rollator. Linda got mom up and we stood facing each other.
As promised, I told her I was going to get up and hug her. She said, “Oh Mark, don’t do that,” and I told her that I promised I would. With the help of my brother Gary and sister Linda, they got me up and I hugged my mom.
We looked right at each other and it was a very emotional moment. We both embraced and exchanged heartfelt words. Happy tears flowed and we hugged until I could no longer stand.
There was a wonderful Caribbean band playing in the lobby, which made the lobby quite loud for my mom to hear. The hotel staff knew that my family was coming and what a big event this was to see my mom after nine years. They offered us the conference room right then and there and we had dinner and drinks together in a very intimate environment. The patio doors were opened and we ventured outside to take pictures and just enjoy relaxing and talking until 11 p.m. It was such an amazing day and moment that I will treasure in my heart forever!
The following day, mom had to rest and I did the same. The weather was perfect and it was like another day in paradise relaxing by the pool and looking out at the ocean to see dolphins swimming by each day. It was wonderful to feel alive and part of the excitement of beach goers and families enjoying being on vacation. Surfers, swimmers and beach goers filled the background from my balcony. It felt so amazing to “be in the moment” and “be present” to enjoy just being by the ocean and relaxing by the beach.
We were able to arrange travel to go visit my mom at her assisted living facility the following day. Our driver, Lena, was able to pick us up and we had a party at my mom’s place. It was wonderful to see her living space. My sister packed sandwiches, chips, drinks and dessert. It was just wonderful to sit around and just enjoy each other. My niece Lexi and her husband O’Shay came during their workday. My brother joined us before going to his tennis match.
My mom was so happy we could see her place. It meant a lot to me. Now, when we talk on the phone, I can actually envision her place and her in it. We were able to spend several hours together that included lots of laughter and no tears. I felt that my visit was rich with conversation, hugs and love.
This disease teaches you what’s important and what’s not important quickly. I don’t have time to waste on things that don’t matter. This trip mattered, seeing my mom mattered, and seeing my siblings and family mattered. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
It was perfect and I can’t thank you all enough for making this trip happen for me. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Team Gleason. Our last day was spent like it began, poolside or sitting on our balcony looking out into the ocean. I will treasure these memories.
Thank you Team Gleason!