Thursday, September 30, 2004


When a family member is dying, the effects of that process reach all of the people who love them. The death of a loved one is like a boulder that is thrown into the middle of a lake.

When the boulder drops below the surface,  the rippling circles of waves start at the drop point and travel to all parts of the lake. The ripples can only stop when the waves reach the shore.

This is what Peggys dying from Alzheimer's disease is doing to our family. The ripples are circling out and touching many lives.

I am not the only person hurting as we all watch Peggy disappear. The whole family is in grief, as are her friends and all of the people her life has touched.

Alzheimer's disease is the lake and Peggy is the boulder that has been dropped into the middle of it. As she sinks below the surface, the ripples from her disappearance are touching all of our lives in different ways.

My husband and I were talking the other evening about Peggy. He had read my journal entry for that day and his comment was, You know, I miss Peggy too!

John became a part of our family when Peggy was in the 9th grade and he has been apart of her life since that time.

I get so caught up in my own grief over losing Peggy that I forget how much others are hurting. They have not made their grief  as public as I have.

So, to my husband, John, to my children, Melissa, Sheri, Ross, Mike, Scott and Mickey, to my sisters, Betty Jean and Barbara, to my brother, Johnny and to all of my cousins, especially Jimmy and to all of my friends. Thank You! 

I send a special love to Ricky, Melodie and Brooke. And to Darlene and Jim...You are all special people who are affected every day as Peggy disappears from your lives. 

I also want to thank Ricky for giving me the permission to write this journal.

Thank you for your support in my effort to explain what it is like for me to watch Peggy disappear a little more every day.

To everyone who reads this journal and offers their support,  Thank You!

Writing this journal has been a labor of love and personal therapy. It is also the most difficult work that I have ever attempted.

I think that Peggy would be proud of me for trying to explain what I think is happening to her as she continues her journey ....

To disappear from all of our lives.     

I Love YouToday, Peggy!

Mary Louise

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


I read these words this morning and tears flooded my eyes.

The words were........

Don't ever forget that I will always love you.

Peggy has forgotten that I love her.....

But I haven't forgotten.

I'll will always love you, Snodgrass!

My sister's and I gave her that name on her 13th birthday and it stuck.

Time and Alzheimer's has taken your memory of love and erased the knowledge that are sisters.  Alzheimer's is powerful but it can never take away the love that I have in my heart for you.

We share a history that is burned into my memory and seared into my soul.

As long as I can remember.....I will remember You!

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise

Tuesday, September 28, 2004



I wonder what it would be like if we didn't have mirrors to view our physical image. What would it be like if we could only see ourselves from the inside.... looking out?

We would not know if we were beautiful or plain. We would have to rely on other people to tell us how we look physically.

It is really true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Peggy was a beautiful woman on the outside before she developed Alzheimer's disease.

Her physical image has changed since Alzheimer's has taken over her body.

I hardly knew the woman that I saw when I visited with her. Her physical appearance has changed. She is bloated from the medicine that she is taking and wears no make-up. Her hair is cut short for convenience sake.

The other Peggy always had polished nails and dressed impeccably. She had her hair highlighted regularly and wore beautiful clothes. She was hardly ever without her makeup applied to perfection.

The Alzheimer's Peggy lives from day to day looking from the inside out. Mirrors do not mean anything to her.                           How she looks to other people does not mean anything to her now.  Makeup, hair styles, clothes and polished nails do not mean anything to her.

What a relief to never worry about what other people think of how we look on the outside.

What a relief to be comfortable with yourself, just the way you are.

I do think that beauty is in the eye of the beholder because when I saw this new Peggy, this Peggy who is in the last stages of Alzheimer's disease....... I saw beauty.

I saw a little girl who followed me around.

I saw the teenager laughing at a joke.

I saw the young mother holding her babies.

I saw the active golfer and tennis player.

I saw a vivacious wife and mother.

I looked right past the outside of Peggy whose body is ravaged with Alzheimer's disease. 

I saw the Peggy who is a still a beautiful person on the inside.

Peggy will always be beautiful to me because I know the real Peggy.

The Peggy that lives on the inside...looking out.

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise

Monday, September 27, 2004

Love You....Mean It!!!!!

Peggy and I have said good-bye many times over the course of our lives.

I remember the first time that I was allowed to go to a sleep over with my friends. Peggy was about 5 years old and stood with tears in her eyes when I left because she could not go with me. I told her bye and that I would see her in the morning.

Saying good-bye is a natural part of life. It is as natural as saying hello. This good-bye is such a long one that it feels like forever. It will never be long enough to say good-bye and I Love You, Peggy.

Peggy and I have said good-bye on many occasions.  Though it always made me sad to say those words, I knew that we would meet again and take up right where we left off. Our good-bye today would become hello tomorrow.

I have written about this before but I wanted to tell the story again.

When we were girls we had a special hand gesture that we used to communicate when we couldn't talk. We would make a square with our fingers that meant....


It started when we were little girls in church. Peggy would be on one side of the balcony with her friends and I, on the other with my friends.            I would look over to her side of the balcony and she would be making the sign. It would immediately cause laughter from me and shushes from people around me.  Quiet was the rule in church.

I would wait for a while and make the sign back when she least expected to see it. She would look up and see me making the sign and then sink in her seat covering her mouth with her hands.

The last time that I saw Peggy use the sign was in the airport a few years ago. I had been visiting with her and it was time for me to go. Time to say good-bye again.

This particular departure was before the rules that now make it impossible to walk friends or loved ones back to a plane. Peggy and I walked to the boarding area. We hugged and I walked down the hallway to board the plane. Before stepping on the plane, I turned to wave at her. She had a huge smile on her face and was making "the sign."

I smiled all the way to my seat and chuckled as I buckled the seatbelt. As the plane was pulling away, I looked out of the window and broke into laughter. There was Peggy in the big window of the airport...making the sign as the plane taxied away.

I made the sign back and laughed as we pulled away to take off.

I though of our sign this morning after talking with Peggy. I said, I love you today, Peggy. She said; thanks.

I said; Love You... Mean It Today, Peggy!!!!!

Her response was...what?

My heart crunched a little because Peggy doesn't remember me or our sign any longer.

I'm glad that I still remember all the hello's and good-bye's  and the sign that we shared. I hurt because she has forgotten her life and me but....

Nothing is forever.......

Even Good-bye.

I'm sure that when I enter Heaven, Peggy will be standing there to greet me. No words will be necessary because her finger's will be making a square that tells me, welcome and......


I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise

Friday, September 24, 2004


I am remembering the Peggy of summer while she is living in the winter of Alzheimer's Disease.

Peggy's summer has ended and that makes me sad. I will be ready to embrace fall when I see the shades of color slide into the green leaves and I will be reminded of the green colors of Peggy's eyes.

There is something mournful about the leaves drifting to the ground when fall has ended. The trees must stand bare to face the cold, raw winds of winter.

Peggy is now living in the winter of Alzheimer's disease. She tested  7 last week on the Alzheimer's scale, 30 is normal and 0 is death.

I have never adapted well to change and I mourn as the seasons of Peggy's life come to a close.  Her season's have melted one into the another as she has battled this disease. 

I will only be able let go of her when I wrap my mind around the fact that I cannot change what is to come but need to embrace what is and what will be.

Peggy already has the eyes of winter. Cold, dark places where green eyes once looked at the world with hope and a passion about life and living. The winter of Alzheimer's has taken the sparkle from her eyes and replaced it with the ice and cold of a dark, grey winter day.

I get so caught up in my resistance to her leaving that I forget that we still have now.

This morning when I called her.....I said this is Mary Louise. How are you this morning? Fine, she said.... I am So fine! I knew that she had no idea who she was talking with but smiled when she said that she was fine, So fine.

I know, that she is not fine but I am thankful that she is living in a place that she feels is.. So fine.   

It was nice to hear her voice even though summer has slipped away from her.  Now, the winter of Alzheimer's covers her mind with ice and snow.

When the snow melts in the Spring, there will be no promise of rebirth for Peggy. She will forever live in the Alzheimer's winter until her body cannot hold the weight of the snow and ice any longer.                  

Then, she will melt away like an ice cube placed on the pavement in thehot summer sun. She will melt into a puddle of water that will quickly dry in the heat of July. When the puddle, that was Peggy dries, those who loved her will always remember that she was here and enjoyed the season's of her life.

We will all remember the Peggy of summer.

Betty Jean, Barbara, Johnny and I will continue to visit Peggy in the snow and ice of the Alzheimer's winter because...

 We love her and we can bundle our bodies with heavy parkers, hats and boots as we step into the winter world of Alzheimer's disease and remember with joy and laughter....

 The Peggy of summer.

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise



Wednesday, September 22, 2004


We have had some good news from Pensacola Beach. The beach house stood tough in the 145 mile an hour winds. It braved the winds for 6 hours and is still standing. It is bruised and bleeding but refused to be completely destroyed.

It will be rebuilt and someday in the future, once again welcome weary souls to its beautiful views and big rocking chairs. It will once again wrap warm arms around hurting hearts so that healing can take place.  It will help a soul refresh itself by looking at the clear waters of the Gulf and hearing the waves as they kiss the shore. It will help a soul heal again by walking on the beach looking for shells, the gifts from the sea. The beach house will once again help hearts to heal in the warm days and nights on the Gulf Coast.

Knowing this, I can't help but think that Peggy too, is bruised and bleeding just like the beach shack. She has been standing tough against the devastating winds of Alzheimer's disease. She is getting tired now and will not be able to stand with the strength of the beach shack much longer.

I now know that I was too quick to give up on the beach house and too quick to give up on Peggy after my visit.

 I responded to the outside of Peggy that has been ravaged and torn apart by the hurricane force winds of Alzheimer's. In my despair, I forgot that on the inside, she is still there somewhere and does not have the ability to let me know.  I let myself give up on her just like I let myself give up on the hope that the beach house could have braved the hurricane force winds of Ivan.

Now, I think of Peggy like I do the beach house in Pensacola. There is much damage to the outside and inside of her but she is still standing. She looks and acts different now because of facing the winds of Alzheimer's disease. I am different too as I continue to watch my sister disappear.

I have learned that to assume that everything is gone forever is defeating.

After I returned home, I decided that my calls were not important  because she does not know me any longer.  After a few days of not calling, I decided that the calls were important, if only to me. She does not know me and cannot respond to me and that is a fact that I cannot change. What I can do is still call her and hear her voice.

  This is important because one day, the Alzheimer's hurricane will blow its ferocious winds and destroy Peggy's voice just like it is destroying her body.

When that happens, she will have truly disappeared from this place but never from my heart.

I will always admire her strength in trying to stand tough against the Alzheimer's hurricane. She will lose her battle but she will never disappear from my memory because we are sisters and sisters are forever.

While it is true that Peggy and I don't have tomorrow, we have had some wonderful, fun, exciting yesterday's. I will cherish my memories of Peggy with the big green eyes and a smile that could light up a room. I will cherish her laughter because her laughter made me laugh too. I will cherish the person that was Peggy, my sister, my forever friend.

I think that there is a purpose for every life and that no one can fulfill that purpose but you.

Maybe, the purpose in my life is to write about the desvastation of Alzheimer's disease what it feels like to Watch my Sister....Disappear.

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise

Saturday, September 18, 2004



After visiting with Peggy, I did what I always do...Go to the beach.

It is only 4 hours south of Birmingham and a calm place of healing for me. I spent two weeks on Pensacola Beach walking, looking at the clear waters of the Gulf and listening to the sound of the waves. I was trying to heal from the knowledge that Peggy does not know me any longer.

Today, my place of healing by the Gulf is gone. Ivan has destroyed or damaged everything on Pensacola Beach. There is total destruction and devastation everywhere that you look.

Last week, I had a healing place by the Gulf. Today, there is no healing place on the beach in Pensacola for me. There is no welcoming beach house for me to run to, hide and cry in my grief. 

 It was as if the beach house was waiting for me for one last time.   It was waiting for me to be the last person healed there.              The skies did darkened with the approach of Hurricane Francis but it did not come to Pensacola Beach while I was there. I had the time that I needed to put my heart back together.

It was as if the beach house warned Francis to stay away so that I could have the healing time that I needed for my soul. The beach house knew that I needed to sit on the deck in the dark of the night and listen to the surf kiss the shore. It knew that I needed to have the time to walk at sunset and gather shells. I needed to bring the gifts from the sea home with me.  I needed to have the shells that would remind me of my healing place.

Now, when I look at those shells, I will be reminded of the place where my wounded soul sat in big rocking chairs, crying loud, heart sobbing cries that were drowned by the noise of the gulf.  I will be reminded that rocking in the big chairs helped me to feel a calm in my heart.

I was privileged to be the last person healed by the beach house as nature decided that it was time to reclaim its own. 

Looking at Ivan's devastation on the news, I thought of Peggy and how Alzheimer's has totally destroyed everything that she was and has left total devastation to the sister that I knew.

A beach house can be re-built and life will go on until nature decides to reclaim what is hers again. Possessions can be replaced because they are" just things".

The destruction that Alzheimer's has done to Peggy's mind and body cannot be re-built or re-placed.

Life will slowly return to normal for the people of Pensacola Beach. I will be happy for everyone there and will think about them as the re-build. 

But I will always be sad that the Beach Shack by the Gulf, a place that welcomed me with open arms and provided a place of calm and healing for my soul, is gone forever.....

Just like Peggy!

I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


I have not been able to write since I returned home from my visit with Peggy.

The words and feelings were there but never found their way to my fingers until today.

The words and feelings of my visit with Peggy banged in my head like rocks, bouncing from one side of my brain and then to the other.

The rocks finally dissolved in to pebbles and slid into my heart. They roamed around for weeks trying to find a place to rest.

The rocks of my feelings dissolved into sand and slid, one grain at a time into my soul.

Today, the grains of sand and feelings about the Peggy have finally made their way to my fingers.


I walked into the room and saw Peggy sitting in her chair. I rushed toward her and we both had huge smiles on our faces.

I dropped to my knees in front of her and took her face in my hands. Her eyes opened wide and there were tears in her eyes and I started to cry.

For a flash of an instant, I thought she recognized me and was gone.

I hugged her but she didn't hug me back.

A little while passed and her husband asked her if she knew the people that were visiting her...She said, No.

I know that Peggy is safe where she is.....But, she is gone from me and that.......

Is the sand of the pain that will always be in my soul.

I experienced the coldness of a stranger during the visit.

No welcoming eyes...

No welcoming arms...

Just a shell of a person that still resembles my sister.

I gave Peggy a soft, cuddly white stuffed dog to hold but she wouldn't touch it. The old Peggy loved stuffed animals but the new Peggy did not.

I mourn for the old Peggy but I am slowly accepting this new Peggy who will always have my love because... she is my sister.

I Love You Today, Peggy...Just the way you are.

 I miss you so much.

Mary Louise