Friday, October 29, 2004


There is something comforting about hands.

 One summer day when I was 7 years old, I had been watching my Daddy work on a car in the back yard. He had been working on the car all morning. I had been handing him tools when he asked for them. It seemed to make him proud that I was interested in what he was doing and it felt good to be close to him and to help him work.

I went inside and was sitting at the kitchen table eating a cheese sandwich when he came into the kitchen.

As he walked pass me, I could smell the gasoline and grease from his clothes. He walked to the kitchen sink and began washing his arms and hands. When he finished "washing up" as he called it, he wiped his big hands dry, he came over to the table.

 His hands were rough from all of the work that he did and there were always traces of grease left on his hands that would never come off.

Instead of sitting down, he came over to me. I looked up at him and he took my face in his hands. He held my face, looked at me and smiled but never said a word. Then, he went to his chair and sat down to eat.

I will always cherish the memory of Daddy's hands on my face. Those big, rough hands that smelled of gasoline and grease told me that I was loved just by their touch. No words were needed  then or today.

Now, when I get a faint smell of gasoline or grease, I travel back to that day and can still feel the loving touch of Daddy's hands on my face.

I saw an ordination service once called "The laying on of Hands." It was a beautiful service where older, more experienced Ministers laid their hands on the head of a new minister. It looked to me like the older Ministers were transferring their years of wisdom to the head of the young minister who was just starting his or her ministry. It was a beautiful thing to witness.

Hands come in all sizes and are very interesting to me.

I remember how big my husbands hands looked when our new babies touched his fingers with their tiny fingers.

The hands are important part of our bodies. We lend a hand, join hands, walk hand in hand,get out of hand, wash our hands and can have a heavy hand.

The touch of a hand can bring calm or cause fear.

The touch of a hand can ease pain and promote healing or do damage.

When I saw Peggy this summer, the first thing that I did was go to chair where she was sitting, kneel in front of her and hold her face in my hands. My healthy hands felt big on her ailing face. She seemed to rest her head in my touch and find a moment of comfort there. It  was a moment that I will never forget.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if I had the power to heal with my hands. If I had that power, I would place both of my hands on Peggy's face and bring her health and memories back by the simple act of the laying on of my hands.

One day, Peggy will be touched by a hand that will make her whole again. I am certain about that....

Spencer Michael Free wrote these words long ago...

'Tis the human touch in this world that counts, The touch of your hand in mine.

Which means far more to the fainting heart than shelter, bread and wine;

For shelter is gone when the night is o'er and bread lasts only a day,


The touch of the hand and the sound of the voice......

Sing on in the soul always.

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise


Thursday, October 28, 2004


My sister, Barbara sent a card to me the other day and I wanted to share it with all of you.

The Ross sisters have hurt as we watch our youngest sister, Peggy disappear from our lives.

We know the importance of staying close,  but now, it takes on a profound meaning. It means forgetting old differences and remembering to let one other know how much they are loved.

We never know how much time we have to stop and say...I Love You, Today!

Here is the Donna Worthington Wall that Barbara sent to me....


The inside of the card reads.....

You and I have shared so much~~sweet memories we left behind

like listening to the radio and hairstyles to try.

We loved for the phone to ring~ we'd race to see who it was.....

hoping as we raced that it was for one of us.

We were going to see the world~ travel far away~

We didn't realize then...that this was the most beautiful place.

God has given us more blessings than we could ever measure....

and loving you all these years is my heart's treasure.

With much love,


This card, at this place and time in my life was like a life line being thrown to me.

A life line to let me know how much my sister loves and thinks about me.

We all need life lines from one another as we continue to watch our sister, Peggy....Disappear!

Thank you Barbara! Thank you so much!

I Love You Today! Barbara

Your grateful sister.....

Mary Louise


Wednesday, October 27, 2004


It is strange to see the winding road of Alzheimer's disease.

There are twists, sharp turns and uneven road.

I feel like I am driving down a dangerous road in a tiny, unsafe car. There are steep cliffs to my right with no guard rails to protect me. There are high mountains to my left which could send a boulder down and crush my car with me inside.

I am never sure if I should speed up or slow down when I try to communicate with Peggy while driving this road.

Every day and every call to her is different.

The only thing that never changes on this twisting road is........

Peggy doesn't remember who I am or that we are sisters.

So, I will continue to drive on this stretch of road until the road is no more and I have to stop my car and get out.

When that happens, I will look back and see the road that I have traveled with Peggy.  I will be a better driver in my life because of this journey with my sister. A better person as I watch a cherished part of my history continue to disappear from my life.

I Love You, Peggy and........

I Will Remember You...

 by Sarah McLachlan   (Liberties Taken)

I will remember you. Will you remember me?

 Don't let your life pass you by..Weep Not for the memories.

Remember the Good Times that we had!

I let them slip away from me when things got bad. 

Clearly, I first saw you smiling in the sun.  I want to feel your warmth around me.  I want to be the one!

I'm so Tired but I can't sleep. Standing on the edge of Something Much too Deep!

Funny, how we Feel so much but Cannot say a Word.

Though we are Screaming inside.........We can't be Heard!

I Will Remember You! Will you remember me?

Don't let your life pass you by..Weep Not For the Memories!

So afraid to Love You...More afraid to lose..

We are Clinging to a Past that doesn't let us choose!

Where once there was darkness, a deep and endless night.

You gave us everything you had.......AHHH... Peggy,

You gave me light!


I will Remember You!

Will You Remember me?

Don't let your Life pass you by.

I will weep NOT for all our Memories!!!

I Love You, Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise

Monday, October 25, 2004


Peggy and I always loved to tap dance.  We would tape pennies to our shoes and tap away on the sidewalk in front of our house. Those are some of the memories of Peggy that make me smile.

But, have you ever heard the phrase, "I'm dancing as fast as I can?"

That is the way that I felt when I finished my call to Peggy this morning.

 My heart was tired from dancing when I hung up the phone. 

I had to dance around her silences, dance around her struggle for words, dance with my sparklers lit while talking and pretending that everything was normal.

If love and dancing were enough, I could love and dance Peggy well. 

If love and dancing were enough, I would dance with her forever.

Sometimes, Love is not enough! 

Sometimes, I can't dance fast enough!

Sometimes, the sparklers get wet and go out as I continue to tap away.

No matter how fast I dance, I cannot stop the cloud of Alzheimer's from gathering around Peggy's head.  

No Matter how fast I dance, I cannot stop Alzheimer's from drenching her with a cold rain.                

 I search my mind for something, anything that will make it easier for Peggy and for me to dance through this storm.

All that I can think to do is...

Grab my umbrella of memories and cover our heads to protect us while we dance.

While we continue to dance this dance of Peggy's disappearance........

 I promise you, Peggy that I will continue to dance with you even as you forget how to dance. 

There is no way to stop Alzheimer's disease so...

We will just dance together under the umbrella of my memories.      I will try to keep you dry and make sure our sparklers stay lit!

We will dance and I will remember.........

Two little girls with pennies taped to their shoes.


Mary Louise

Friday, October 22, 2004


Peggy's voice sounded strong this morning and she was laughing as she answered my questions.

How are you today?


What are you doing right now?

I don't know.

Do you know who this is?


This is Mary Louise..Your Sister and I love you so today, Peggy.


It is interesting how little things are being erased from her mind. She has forgotten how to hang up the phone. When I say good-bye to her, she doesn't know what to do.

This morning, after I talked with her, I said...bye Peggy.

She said...O K.

I am going to hang up the phone now and you can too.


Bye Peggy.


O K, I'll count to three and we will both hang up the phone at the same time.

Laughing she said; All-right.

O. K. Peggy...1,2,3. hang up.


Tears pooled in my eyes when I heard her say thanks.

Peggy, just lay the phone down, O K?


This goes on for a while until I get up the courage to close my cell phone and disconnect.

I always tear up when I have to do this because I feel like I am closing my link to her.

The Peggy that I knew is Not on the other end of the phone line... but the voice that I knew Is....

That feels strange in many ways.

 In all of our years of talking on the phone, we have never hung up on one another.  Having to hang up the phone while she is still on the line is a new grief that I face when I call her.

I have to decide when to disconnect and hang up my phone.           I do this knowing that she is still on the line and just doesn't remember what to do. I am never sure if I am doing the right thing when I disconnect and hang up on her. 

After 5 or 10  minutes of saying good-bye and please hang up the phone Peggy,  I slowly close my cell phone. 

 I think that if I hang up the phone slowly and hold it to my heart...she can feel my heart hurting and hear my tears falling as I say good-bye and finally hang up. 

Maybe, she knows somewhere in her being, that it is hard for me to disconnect from her voice.

To slowly disconnect from the only thing that is left of the old Peggy... The only thing that still sounds like home....Peggy's voice.

Daphne Rose Kingma wrote.....

Today, see if you can stretch your heart and expand your love so that it touches not only those to whom you can give it easily...

But also to those who need it so much!

I Love You Today, Peggy! 

Hearing the sound of your voice and your laughter today, helped to touch that place in my soul that is...Home.                                   A safe place where there were no cell phones and no one had to ....slowly say good-bye.

Mary Louise


Wednesday, October 20, 2004


I enjoy putting puzzles together on the cold, gray nights of winter.

I place a card table in the family room and start my puzzle by sorting the pieces. I always do the outside of the puzzle first and slowly fill in the center. When all of the pieces are in place, the puzzle becomes a wonderful picture. After my puzzle is completed, I enjoy the picture for a while and then jumble the puzzle pieces and put them back in their box until I decide to put it together again. 

I think of Peggy's life as a puzzle. When she was born, life started putting the pieces of her puzzle together. One moment and one day at a time, another piece was added to complete Peggy.

When she grew into a woman, all the pieces were in place and the puzzle that was Peggy was complete.

A few years ago, Alzheimer's disease chose a young Peggy and began to remove the all of the puzzle pieces that made her who she was.

It has continued to take pieces from her mind and today, the puzzle that was Peggy is almost completely taken apart.

The pieces of her memory are lying on the floor of her mind......all jumbled up. 

There is no way to fit the pieces of Peggy's puzzle back together because I have tried. I would pick up a puzzle piece that contained a shared memory and try to fit it back into her mind with every phone call to her.

The pieces of her mind and body are so scattered now that no one can fit the pieces of her life back together and make her whole again.

I am reminded of the nursery rhythm about Humpty Dumpty as I watch Peggy disappear.

Peggy Jane was sitting on a wall...

Peggy Jane had a great fall...

And all of her family and all of her friends...

Couldn't put Peggy back together again.

The Peggy that I knew and loved has been taken apart by Alzheimer's disease and put into a box, all jumbled up.

She can only be put back together again when she reaches a place where the Master Puzzle Maker lives.

When Peggy reaches that place, the Master Puzzler will open the box that contains all of the pieces of Peggy. The Master will take the puzzle pieces of Peggy out, sort them and say.. 

I will put Peggy's head together first so that I can see her beautifuleyes and her bright smile. Then, she can tell me all of the memories that her mind has stored and saved for this day.

 When that occurs.....

The Peggy that I knew..... will be whole again.

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise




Monday, October 18, 2004




Christopher de Vinck wrote...

Though I have seen the oceans and mountains, though I have read great books and seen great works of art...there is nothing greater or more beautiful than those people I Love.

These people, seated on this bed helped to shape my life. Each in their own way, made me the person that I call myself.

Each in their own way showed me that being Mary Louise was a good thing. 

All of us continue to watch Peggy disappear with disbelief, pain and a feeling of helplessness.


 Our memories of Peggy and of growing up "one of the Ross kids" bring us joy!

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise

Friday, October 15, 2004


When my Mother and Daddy died, I felt such a sense of loss.   

 I was a grown woman who felt like an orphan. I was aware that no matter how much I wanted too, I could never go home again.

I could never walk through the front door of 1805 St. Charles Court and yell...I'm Home!!!   I would never see Mother sitting at the kitchen table drinking her coffee or Daddy working in the back yard. 

 I could never lie on the bed in the front bedroom and sleep soundly knowing that I was home and safe. I could never sit down to a meal at the kitchen table and hear all the familiar voices of my childhood.

This is what it feels like to watch Peggy disappear with Alzheimer's Disease.        

The part of my life that was shared with Peggy is over and I can never go home to her again.   

Just like Mother and Daddy...she is no longer there. She is no longer at home.

 The house she has lived in is being emptied.... one piece of furniture at a time.

All I can do is stand in the front yard and watch as all her belongings are loaded onto a truck.                                               All of the furniture that made Peggy who she was is being loaded in a moving van and taken to a destination that I can never visit. 

Every call that I make to her confirms that she is leaving.

As I watch the truck pull away...I can see Peggy leaning out of the truck window. She is waving and smiling. I hear her yelling to me,

Goodbye, M. L.      Be happy for me because.......

I am going Home!!

All I can do is smile at her and wave as she leaves. Tears choke my voice as I whisper...Good-bye to Peggy every day.

 I'll miss you more than You can Remember!

Happy is the person who knows what to remember of the past, what to enjoy in the present, and what to plan for the future.          A. Glason

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise

Thursday, October 14, 2004

LESSONS THAT I HAVE LEARNED while Watching Peggy Disappear


My grief over Watching Peggy Disappear has taught me many things.

It is very easy to sit in the anger of losing her and shut off my mind to the fact that there are blessing in my grief.

I now understand that If....

My grief teaches me only blessing will be lost.

If it teaches me nothing but Bitterness... my blessing will be lost.

If it has taught me nothing but blessing will be lost.

If my grief over losing my sister has only taught me blessing will be lost.

If it teaches me nothing but blessings will be lost.

If grief teaches me nothing but blessings will be lost.

Watching Peggy Disappear has taught me to feel...Anger, bitterness, pain, fear, uncertainty and resentment but it has also taught me....

To live in the Moment.

To laugh at the things Peggy says and not cry even when she thinks that I am Jim.

To appreciate and treasure the memories of my life.

To tell the people I love that I love them every day.

Watching Peggy disappear has also taught me...

To control my fear and not let my fear of getting Alzheimer's disease control my life.

I have found new strength in my grief over losing my sister a little at a time. At least, I am given the time to let her go slowly.

I have found the strength.....

To embrace my grief and know that I can live through it.

Peggy's living death has taught me that nothing is forever. That this moment is the day and the time to live. 

I have learned that joy does not come in perfect words and sentences but in the sound of a voice.

Peggy's illness has taught me that...

Memories may be all we have of someone that we love.

I have learned how to hold on to things in my life and how to let go.

I have learned that it isn't important that she remembers me because I can remember her.

I have learned in my grief over watching Peggy disappear to...

Not take anything for granted.

To let go of my anger over small things and manage my anger over big things.

I have learned what a privilege it is to......

Get in my car and drive to the grocery store,runerrands or just walk through the mall alone.

I have learned what a privilege it is to dress myself, to bathe and go to the bathroom alone.

Peggy continues to teach me every day with her courage, her spirit and her struggle to live!

Out of The Prison of Alzheimer's Disease Peggy has reached inside my soul and touched me. She has made me a better, more caring person because of her dying. 

Her disease has made me more aware of other people and their pain. Watching her live through this disease has helped to make me a more tender and open person.

She has helped me to realize the blessing of my everyday life and how special all of my moments are.

She still teaches me through the pain of Watching Her Disappear by the sound of her voice.

I thank you Peggy for everything that you are and everything that you have taught me as you continue to struggle with this disease.

Through the process of your dying...

You have taught me how to live!

I Love You Today, Peggy and I thank you!

Mary Louise


Wednesday, October 13, 2004


I asked Peggy some questions during my visit with her last month.

I wanted to try and understand what she was thinking as Alzheimer's erases memories from her brain.

I asked her what she was thinking at that very moment.

Her reply was.... things.

What kind of things, Peggy? 

I don't know.

 Do you think about sad things or happy things when you are sitting here and thinking?

Sad things, she said.

Can you tell me about the sad things that you think about?

No, she replied.

Do you think about Mother and Daddy?


Do you wonder who the people are that come to visit you?


Why don't you ask the people who they are?

Peggy shrugged her shoulders...

Peggy, when you look in a mirror, who do you see looking back at you?

I don't know her.... she replied.

When you see that person in the mirror, who does she look like to you?

Her reply was...... nobody.

Then, I asked again, what do you see when you look in the mirror Peggy?

Her reply was....Nothing.

Do you remember what a sister is?


Peggy, do you know who I am?


Do you know that I Love you?


Are you scared of anything?


Are you happy?


I am your sister, Peggy and I love you today, very much!

She looked at me and smiled.

There is no way to understand what she was thinking or feeling as I talked with her.

 I do know that when I looked at her that day, I saw my sister.

I saw a sister who is disappearing from Alzheimer's disease but I also saw the little sister that I love very much.

She may look in a mirror and see nothing...but when I looked at her that day, I saw a beautiful person.

I saw the memories of our lifetime together.

I saw Peggy....

My forever friend.

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise



Sunday, October 10, 2004


Peggy and I have been playing a game of tug of war with Alzheimer's disease. The disease has been pulling her into disappearance and I have been trying to pull her back.

We have been playing in a contest where two teams pull at opposite ends of a rope, each trying to drag the other across the mud puddle in the center. The teams pull with all their might, digging their heels into the ground. 

This tug of war contest is not a fair battle because Alzheimer's disease is as strong as an elephant.

In my game of tug-of-war...Alzheimer's disease is winning.              I have refused to let go of my end of the rope but I know that Peggy's illness will eventually pull me through the nasty mud of her total disappearance.


Peggy let go of the rope a few months ago. I knew that she had let go when she didn't remember who I was any longer. She held onto the rope as long as she could but one day, Peggy slipped and was drawn face down into the mud puddle in the center of the contest.

There were no screams of defeat from her mouth, she simply let go of the rope.

I continue to pull on my end of the rope.

I refuse to declare Alzheimer's disease the winner of this contest.

Peggy is losing her battle but there are many others who are standing on my side, pulling on the rope with every ounce of strength they posses.

There are the scientist who are searching for a cure and they will never let go of the rope until a cure is found. They search for a cure with a strength of purpose that is cast in bronze.

We will continue this contest of strength and there will be a cure found one day. There will be many Peggy's in the future who will be able to live normal lives, free of Alzheimer's disease.

One day, we will give the rope one last tug...

On that day, this vicious disease will be completely covered in the nasty, brown ooze in the center of the contest. It will lie defeated in the ooze that it creates in the minds of the people it touches.

On that day... a cure for this disease will be announced. The tug of war will be over and we will be declared the winner's of the contest.

It will be too late for Peggy when the cure is found but just in time for millions of other people.

People who will be facing Alzheimer's disease on the other end of a rope..... in the tug of war of their lives.

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise

Thursday, October 7, 2004


Dear Peggy,

I am learning that there are many levels of grief.   Today, I talked with you and I didn't tear up or feel bad when I hung up the phone. You were no different today than on most days.  I was the one who was different. I didn't expect to get anything back while we talked nor did I try to get you to remember.

Grief is like standing on a beach and watching the waves roll in and roll out. Some days, there is a storm at sea and the waves come in with such force that they literally knock me over. Today, the waves were small and easy to feel and watch as they slid back into the ocean.  

 When I bring my memories to the shore of the daily calls, I cause the waves to get rough. It is when I expect to get something back from Peggy that I cause my own stormy seas.

Today, I didn't expect to get anything back from her. I just wanted to hear her voice and calm the rough sea in my heart.

I wish that I could learn to be a buoy and never let the waves knock me over again.

But...I know me and I also know that there will still be those calls when I stand on the shore of my remembrances and try to get something back.       

There will be those days when I drop my anchor and try to get her to remember..... When I do that, then I am the one who will cause the stormy sea in my heart.

Peggy is sailing in a beautiful ship, on a sea of glass. She has no fear of rough seas or of the storms that I see in the distance.

 I am the sailor who keeps trying to bring her back to the shore before the storms come. I am the sailor who keeps dropping the anchor instead of being the buoy that rocks on the waves and rides out the storm with her.

I have much to learn about grief and how it is affecting me. I will try and learn to ride the waves as they come.    I will try to realize that my grief is like the ocean and the waves will continue. They will always roll in and they will never stop touching the shore of my heart. 

I will continue to stand facing the ocean and watching the approaching storms. And I know that I can not stop the waves from washing Peggy away, no matter how hard I try.. I will just strive to be her anchor in the storm as I continue to learn how to be a Buoy!

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise

Wednesday, October 6, 2004


Have you ever given a baby a bath in a sink?         It never fails that they will put their little hands to the faucet to try and catch the water. They will work and work at the task but the water just flows through their hands.

This is what it feels like as I watch Peggy disappear from my life. Her life is like water running through my hands. I work and work at trying to hold on to her but she continues to slip through my fingers.  It doesn't matter how tight I make my fists, I cannot hold on to her.

Alzheimer's disease has turned her life and memories into liquid and she is going down the drain.

I put a stopper in the drain for a while to try and keep her from going. I called her every day to remind her that I loved her and that we were sisters.

 Now, the drain is open and her life is pouring through the hole in the bottom of the sink and there is nothing that I can do.....nothing but love her as she continues to slip through my fingers and disappear.

This is a vicious disease and I hate it for taking my sister away. I hate the way it has turned her life into liquid. I hate the way it has turned her memories into water. I hate the way I feel as I watch her slide away and I hate this disease.

 But most of all..I hate the knowledge that I can only watch as Peggy runs through my fingers and continues to go down the drain.

I do find comfort in the warmth of her life and all of my Peggy memories as she slides through my hands.

The memories of laughter, secrets and sharing. The comfort of knowing that she was as close as a phone call. 

Today, she continues to slide through my cupped hands and disappear down the dark hole in the bottom of the sink.

Today, she didn't remember me or that we were sisters.

Today, Peggy is closer to completely disappearing down the dark hole in the bottom of the sink.

 The dark hole called....Alzheimer's disease.

I Love You Today, Peggy!

I miss you so much!

Mary Louise





Monday, October 4, 2004


I think that having Alzheimer's disease would be like packing a trunk for storage.

It is a trunk that will be stored in an attic for many years. It is a trunk that will gather dust and can never be opened. It will sit with all of the contents of Peggy's life safely stored away.

Peggy has been packing her Alzheimer's trunk for 6 or 7 years.       It is almost to the top and will not hold many more thoughts from her life.    

She has already packed most of her memories in the trunk.           She has packed the ability to do the every day tasks that we take for granted.

She has forgotten tasks like standing and sitting, personal care, conversation of any kind and sharing her thoughts on a subject.

Alzheimer's disease is standing beside Peggy's trunk. It is smiling as one more memory, one more learned task is folded and put away.

When the trunk is finally full, Alzheimer's will point its crooked finger at Peggy and direct her to also step into the trunk. It will then close the lid, lock and drag her trunk to a lonely attic.

Alzheimer's disease thinks that the Peggy that I knew will be locked away forever in her life trunk.

What Alzheimer's disease doesn't know is that I have a key to Peggy's trunk.

It is the key that can open the trunk and all of the memories of my sister.

It is the key to the trunk where all of my memories of Peggy are stored.

Alzheimer's disease will take Peggy away just as surely as it has taken all of her memories way but......

I HAVE A KEY.....  

I have a key that Alzheimer's disease can never take away.

I will find my way to the attic where Peggy's trunk is stored on days in my future.

I will take my key and open Peggy's trunk and take our shared memories out, one by one.

I will remember her laughter, her tears, her sense of humor. I will remember her joy's, her Love you--Mean it!

I will remember our childhood, our teens, our wedding days and the births of our children.

I will sit in the attic beside Peggy's trunk and see rays of light as they stream through the tiny windows. I will watch as the dust in the attic dances in the air.

I will sit with Peggy's trunk open and with all of our memories spread around me on the floor. I will hold each memory close to my heart

I will sit by Peggys trunk and remember....

I will sit, smile and remember...I will remember....

My Sister, Peggy.

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise