Sunday, January 15, 2017

Peggy died.

Peggyy died December 18, 2016.  I'm not ready to share the experience with this blog.  I don't know how to end it.  I have done drawings, I've slept so much, and received lovely and heartfelt condolences from my friends and family who have listened to me share this journey.  So this is all I have for now, a notice, an announcement.  There are so many angles to go in writing this post that I can't sum up our experience in one final blog post. The end? I don't know.  It's uncomfortable to share so much, but my heart aches for those that will follow me in this Alzheimer's story. So, I will write, draw, share, advocate and be brave and honest, just not right now. Thank you for listening and caring.  Most of all I want to thank Peggy, for being my Mom.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


She's like a baby bird that is dying, a sweet innocent creature that all I can do is hold and tell that it's okay, that I'm here, she's here and it's going to be okay, and the sadness and the....that's why I draw it, because words don't describe it, they get too detailed and have rules and structure.  This is like nothing, no adjective can describe because it's every word in the whole dictionary entangled into one big mysterious snarl in the pit of my stomach.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Mooring on Thanksgiving

my sketch before Thanksgiving 
Earlier this week,  I was dreading another Thanksgiving at Peggy's "home." I could barely stomach the thought of all of us awkwardly standing around in that tiny room, the traditional smell of turkey masking the usual scent of the house for this year's future holiday memories with our Mom's disease placed at the center of the table, again.

 Today is Sunday and my brother Dave and his family have left. I now have a moment to reflect on another holiday spent with and without my Mom. I see it differently than I did a week ago. While
we did all stand around in her room, old age and disease did not preside over the occasion. The love for family did. We chatted with each other and FaceTimed our family who couldn't come. My brother Paul spent Thanksgiving with his three kids and a new son-in-law in Kansas City. It was astonishing to all of us that his youngest son, soon to be a doctor, was now old enough to host their holiday.  Ashley, Christopher and Sunny reminded us of our teenage selves with humor and frustration. Gidget, our youngest, is fully equipped with braces and, in my opinion, the best smile of our whole bunch.

Although my Mom can't actively participate in our lives, she still hosts the table that we gather around. What I hope my family remembers from these gatherings is how well we all care for each other and how we hold our memories and each other dear as we continue to make new ones.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

It's election day

We are very excited around here about the election.  I'm sure my Mom would think it was really great we were all voting for a woman president!  So I wore my pantsuit and gave her an update. 

Monday, September 19, 2016


 I always make sure to give my Mom a big hug before I leave town, even if I'm gone just for a day.

 My little daughter and I were going on a road trip, the Cow Parade in San Luis Obispo was having a special launch party.  We were having so much fun together, we went to the cow party and then out to dinner, where she tried her very first and last oyster.  That night we stayed in a motel in Morro Bay listening to the seals and gulls and hatched a plan to wake up early to take a Kayak out into the Bay to hopefully find a Sea Otter.

I had a dream that night. My Mom, Peggy was on the shore standing up and we were hugging as we both said to each other. "I didn't know I would miss you this much." It was one of those dreams where you physically feel someone and wake up sad that they're not actually there, but I wasn't sad this time. I woke up with the warmth of the hug and feeling good, not sure why I wasn't feeling the usual sense of loss. Then I realized it was because it wasn't me just hugging her like usual, but it was because she was hugging me back. 

 Mommy Sea Otter and her baby hugging each other out in the bay.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

"Lost Boy" by Ruth B - Cover by Sunny Keller

So my kids made a video.  Sunny and her Dad recorded a beautiful version of Ruth B's song Lost Boy. Sunny plays her ukulele, and Allen plays guitar along with our friend Andrew Williams who helped arrange it.  Its amazing, I love it so much.  But you know who really loves it?  Peggy.  I play it over and over for her, it makes me smile, yet makes me so so sad about all the things we lost. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Still Connected

Still Connected by Lois Keller
I had a good talk with Corrine the spiritual advisor from Hospice yesterday and we talked about my emotional connection with Peggy.  She helped me see the light in her, and I guess in me too.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

I take down the rail

It's been 11 weeks since Peggy has only taken liquids.  About half a can of Ensure a day, and some juice.  It's been 11 weeks since I thought she had 1 week left in her.  Life is a mystery.  I'm trying too hard to understand.  Time has always been our enemy throughout this degenerative disease's hell.  Her last few days, which have turned into weeks and now months have been undeniably the most mysterious of them all.  The why, how, the what if, the inability to help her is constantly on my mind.  I only visit her in the evenings now, because the weight of it is too much to bear at the beginning of the day, my inability to help her die, the not knowing if she needs my help as she has through out these 13 years, puts me in a frozen state.  So I go later, and I take down the railing on her bed and hold her close.  I hug her, I kiss her and we have a physical connection that takes all of that mystery away.  I'm here, she's here and "after all, tomorrow is another day." which reminds me of Gone With the Wind, which reminds me of Carol Burnett which reminds me of the laughter we used to share together, which makes me smile again. Went With the Wind

Monday, July 18, 2016

One for my Mom

Her breathing is slower, more labored, has more sound.  She may be nearing the end, we may be nearing the end of the road.  So, I put on this live recording of Frank Sinatra and I turned it up.  I hope he takes her by the hand and leads her to a place where she can dance, and laugh, and have a drink with Frank.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Every other day

That's when I see her, every other day.  It's a discipline, it's a homage, it's a hug, it's the only way I can bear witness to these final never ending days.

Friday, July 1, 2016

June sketches on July 1st

Is today the last day?
Some days are better than others

Sunday, June 12, 2016

It's going to be okay now.

She smiled at me.  It's going to be okay.  That's all I ever want for her, to let her know that it's going to be okay.  Like when my daughter falls down and scrapes her knee. I'm there for her, it hurts, but it's going to be okay.  The pain won't last but love will.

We are taking a different approach to her now, she's not being fed as much, only as much as she can handle or wants.  It's little, but it's making a big difference.  She's not choking anymore, she's more relaxed, we are helping her eat less, not more.  It's okay, it's what is supposed to happen. I'm finishing writing this at the time of waking up and hearing about another mass shooting.  The toll
is already up to 50.  It's bad, it's not hopeful, and I fear that this world is not going to be okay on a
larger scale.  We are all fighting personal battles, and have our own crosses to bear, but when a stranger preys upon strangers with weapons of mass destruction, my family's battle with Alzheimer's makes sense, and seems easy. But, for the people and families that were hurt or killed, it's not going to be okay, because they couldn't be there for them at the end to hold their hands and say I love you, it's not what is supposed to happen.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


The slow demise, the swearing, the psychotic episodes, the incontinence, the memory lapses and lack there of, the wheel chair, the bed, the not knowing who I am, the two years of spoon feeding have all not been as unbearable as these last few weeks with my Mom.  I don't know why Alzheimer's is so brutal, and I don't know why there isn't more realistic help to end this end stage of the disease.  Just let me say, there will a very loud voice that will include Alzheimer's in the right to die conversations, laws and actions when this is over.  Maybe that will be my Mom's gift to the world, not one she wanted to give, but one that will rise from the ashes of her suffering, after this is over.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A must share to help raise awareness

I Got That Dreaded Call.        

Alzheimer's has so many faces, I have been following this family's journey and her latest post is so important to read and share to understand the true need for a cure.  Please read and share.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Her bracelet

I'm not a fancy gold bracelet kinda gal.  I'm sure to scratch, get paint all over, or most likely lose it. But what's the point of keeping the good stuff tucked away in a drawer, or only bringing out her fancy china for company?  If I get a little paint on it, or a dish breaks while having a tea party with my daughter it'll have the wear and tear of real life and these are the joys I'd love to share with Peggy now.  So I try to enjoy the things we do have and  I wear her bracelet all the time now.  
 It always looked so pretty on her, and it still does.

Fancy jewelry and the good china
A very special tea party with Gidgey and Spots when she was  2.

Friday, February 19, 2016

It's been a long time...

It's been a long time since I've posted.  It's been a long time with this disease.  When Peggy
was diagnosed, the average life expectancy was 8 years.  She has had Alzheimer's for at least 13.
How do I know?  I measure it by my oldest daughter's birthday, she just became a teenager on
February 11th. My foreboding thoughts 13 years ago came true when my Mom didn't come see me and my new baby. She was distant because her mind was failing and confusing her, she couldn't make connections either physically or emotionally.

 I haven't felt like writing about this any more. It's become so deeply personal and lonely
that sharing has become difficult.  I feel completely defeated.  I don't try to understand, help, research, raise money, awareness or what not.  I just try to be there.  So, I am.  We are.  I'm there for my Mom, to the bitter end.  Thank you everyone for listening and empathizing, I do care and I do want to fight.  I just hope I'll have more strength to fight this battle once it's over, if ever.
She made this beautiful blanket.

Catholic's now call Last Rites, The Anointing of the Sick.  
Having morning coffee with my Mom
She's got David Bowie eyes.

So many amazing people keep catapulting into the unknown, while we stay down here.

I've been organizing our family photos, so many memories.

I am and always will be her advocate!

I don't really want anyone to see my Mom like this, but I have the courage to share it, to raise awareness.  End Stages need to be in the conversation about the care, research and end to Alzheimer's. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


     I didn't decorate Peggy's room this year for Halloween.  Ghosts, skeletons, witches and candy (that she can't even eat) just aren't fun anymore when you've been staring death in the face for the last three or four years. Please don't be offended as I say that like it's no big deal, making a joke or a mockery of the situation.  My honesty is ripe with trying to understand how to navigate my world with Peggy still in it.   I'm with her as every holiday, anniversary, world event, reunion, birthday and Halloween comes and goes. I've learned that these events don't have the same meaning they used to.  Why?  Because they all mark the passage of time.  Time doesn't exist here as we used to know it.  Time surrounds us now with a celestial, infinite wisdom that has moved beyond the present. When I really hug her time will stop, close in on us, and all the years, all the holidays, all the love becomes one beautiful moment.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pictures of Puppies

Millie and Peggy
She's a Terrier, of some sort....
This Alzheimer's Blog sucks!  I'm tired of posting pictures and stories about death and dying.  So, I got a puppy. Take that Alzheimer's!  Meet Millie, another captain crusader against your depressing, sad and overwhelming stupid disease.  #dogtherapy

Our happy place

Hilarity for Charity Video we helped make!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

My Dad's last lesson

My Dad's star
My Dad taught me to drive, golf and fold towels properly (he was an Air Force man.) Great life lessons too, like how to work hard, how to enjoy life, and one last and very surprising thing, he taught me something about death and dying.  I thought that's what Peggy was doing.  My Mom's brain has slowly been dying over the past 13 years, so I have had lots of time, too much time to think, sympathize, empathize, and even pontificate every angle and emotion about dying. I am waiting sadly, hopefully and patiently for it.  Every time I see her, I think it's near, sometimes so near that I'm afraid to leave her, but I've been thinking that for well over 5 years now.

My Dad had cancer the last few years of his life, but he was very matter of the fact about it.  He got a kidney out, had his weekly chemo, a little radiation and generally just did what the doctors told him and lived with it.  He still went out to dinner and happy hour with his buddies and walked his dogs.  I'd call him and he'd never, ever complain, maybe that he was just a little more tired than usual.  So when he had a seizure and asked me to come down to Florida I went, immediately.  Having been so close to death with my Mom for so long, I was not prepared at all for what might suddenly happen to my Dad.

His cancer had metastasized to his brain, and all his treatments were going to be stopped.  There was talk of rehab and getting him back on his feet.  My brothers flew down, we installed handrails and I met with his doctors.  He never talked about dying, he didn't want to.  He didn't even tell us what or where, if anything should happen to him.  I felt like I was the only one that knew the inevitable was around the corner, and that corner was coming up fast.  I knew the signs, I knew the feeling, I just knew it.

So, I got on  3 planes in the middle of the night to get myself back down to Florida. When I walked in his room his breathing was heavy, loud and coming through the grit of his teeth.  It wasn't difficult for him to breathe air it just had the sound of endurance running out. The groan of a weight lifter pushing through that last set. I dropped my bag and kissed him. I told him that it's okay, that I love him, that he is loved, by me, by so many and that he's an awesome guy.  I was here to hold his hand, like how he held mine when I was little and how he was one of the very first hands I ever held. I thanked him for that too.  His breathing began to quiet.  The sound of intention, concentration, determination all the stuff that has made up my Dad's life quieted down to a slow, relaxed sort of dream, and I laid down near him on the tiny love seat with my shoes still on, next to my suitcase.  I drifted in and out of sleep to the softening sound of his breath and the quiet golf game on tv until I woke to a missing sound.  The sound of his breath and his life that had let go. My Dad died within two hours after I got there.  I got to hold his hand, it was okay, it was kinda beautiful.  It was peaceful, it was logical, it wasn't like my Mom.

So when I came home, and walked in my Mom's room I knew what to expect, and it wasn't death.

telling Peggy about Dad dying

I knew what to expect, and it wasn't death

Visiting Peggy, celebrating another birthday.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Oliver Sacks and Me

"You can't see me, but I know you can feel me, because I'm right here."
Oliver Sacks blew open my mind.  He taught me that people don't see the world the same way I do. They don't taste things the same way, they don't feel things the same way, or even remember things the same way.  He showed me people navigate life in all kinds of unique ways.  Why were his scientific, non-fiction books so enthralling?  It's because his stories were honest reflections and observations about people.  He didn't refer to people as mental or retarded or diseased. We're all just people.  Our brains have different ways of seeing and being in the world. These individual stories gave me a better understanding of the human existence.  Through his observations and stories he excited, fascinated and encouraged me to explore my own vision of reality through my art, feelings and relationships.

What I didn't know when I first read his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat two decades ago is that his words would give me the patience and empathy I would need today, as my Mother continues to delve into the depths of Alzheimer's Disease.   My reality become skewed as the natural  time line from daughter to mother and grandmother began to wobble  The tables turned and I had to care for my Mom as she went backwards mentally and began seeing the world through a completely different lens and time zone than me.  It has been an arduous road fought hard with love, but sometimes despair in the lack of understanding.  Over the past 12 years I have gone back to Oliver Sacks' words for comfort, insight and strength.  He knew disease didn't define the person and that understanding was as important as a cure.  Although this quote is not his, he experienced the value of its insight and believed it was important to share, just like the stories he shared about the people he studied.

The animating theme of Sacks’s work is the importance of individuality in medicine. He quoted Sir William Osler with approval – “Ask not what disease the person has, but rather what person the disease has” – and wrote in Awakenings: “There is nothing alive which is not individual: our health is ours; our diseases are ours; our reactions are ours – no less than our minds or our faces.”

Oliver Sacks Obituary

Monday, July 27, 2015

Release Her

Peggy Lu, Peggy, Lois & the Universe

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Our final journey

Lois and Peggy

I actually got very scared the other day, and felt like I couldn't possibly do this anymore.  That Peggy was so close to death, and frightened that I had a bit of a panic attack.  I am used to the way she looks, and breathes with her mouth wide open, and struggles to swallow, the way she shouts out, the crippledness of her body. I am even getting used to how she can't see anymore, her beautiful blue eyes wandering around in darkness, like her mind.  I panicked because I didn't want this to be normal anymore because I am also used to hugging her, caring for her and loving her.  If Peggy was my beloved pet, as she is my beloved Mom I would take her to the vet immediately and gracefully help her go.  I would hold her hand, kiss her, make sure she knew she was loved.  But, instead I have to leave the room, leave her, and say goodbye, only to come back another day and wish the same damn thing. Why is there no way for me to do that for her?   I've helped her every step of the way, and I want to be with her until the end, for the final stage of this horrible disease, death.

It's hard to do this alone, and I have since gathered my strength by phoning a few friends and letting my guard down.  My very best friend, my husband went with me the next morning with pink roses and held my hand and hers.  Today is a new day, and we will just keep walking and continue our journey until we reach the end, whenever that may be.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

What's left.

I'm kinda beyond describing in words what's been happening these past few months.  I don't have anything inspirational or hopeful to say, it's just what it is.  I usually can't communicate with Peggy and now I don't even know if she can see.  Hospice has been involved for a few months now, they check in on her once a week and with me about once a month.  I've met with a social worker and a spiritual advisor who are nice to talk to in her room, so it's not just me holding her hand and looking at my phone.  It's grim, it's grueling and I also feel that everyone has a cross to bear in this life, and this is ours.  So I stopped sharing so much, I don't want to ruin anyone's day, or look for sympathy.  Honestly, I want it to end.

Usually (hopefully) Peggy is sleeping, except for just after lunch or dinner when we need to keep her upright and awake for a little bit so she doesn't choke on her food.  This day, she was especially communicative.  I filmed this a few weeks ago, and have been going back and forth about posting it.  I'm not trying to gain sympathy or accolades for being a good daughter.  Many people say that to me, and I appreciate it and it makes me feel good, but please, this video is not about me.  This video is about not knowing what to do during the (never) ending stages of ALZ.  Again, by posting our story I hope and believe that the cry for help will be heard louder so that more funding, research and eventually a cure will happen. But also, to gain insight into ALL stages of the disease, and really talk about caring, as well as curing people with Alzheimer's.

This is an insane in the membrain movie and I have trepidations about posting it.  It's not fun to watch, and you don't have to watch it, but I'll tell you it's got quite a bit of mystery, love, emotion, shock, fear, and utter madness in it.  It's nearing the end (maybe) of our journey on this road called Alzheimer's and I had to document it, because I want to remember what it's been like, just the two of us in that room together.  Looking at us from the outside in, and after watching it, I realized just what kind of movie this is, it's a buddy movie.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

David, Paul and Lois

My brothers came in to see us. When all three of us walked in her room, somehow she knew it, or we knew it and that was enough to make us believe that she did.  Her three kids, telling her we loved her and are there for her, just like she was for us put a smile on all our faces.  Our kind and caring Mom that made us the parents we are today.  She'd be darn proud of us and her grandkids, if only Alzheimer's didn't take so much away from her life, and ours.  She was an amazing Mom by example and by believing each of us could be and do anything. She loves us dearly and so there we were, her three children supporting each other and showing her the unconditional love that she showed us.  What goes around comes around, let's just hope and keep working for a cure so that it's the love that is handed down and not Alzheimer's.

Paul, Lois and David today
and in 1970