A tribute to our moms

In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked caregivers, including some of our staff, to tell us a fond memory they have of their mom. They shared funny stories, favorite sayings, touching tributes and loving farewells to these special women who lived with Alzheimer’s.

Lori Ann stands in front of the Christmas tree she donates to the Alzheimer's Association
Lori Ann and her coworkers stand in front of the Christmas tree

Genie and the Christmas tree
Lori Ann of Sacramento

“My mom, Genie, used to have a houseplant shop where she made bows pretty much every day,” shared Lori Ann. “She put them in plants for gifts and to promote her wares. It was a skill that she retained until the end. 

“I used to bring home ribbon for my mom and she would sit and make bows for hours at a time while I was gone. It was not only a way to stay busy but she also got a kick out of being able to help me. I gave away some of the bows to the girls at track meets for their hair. I also used them in my plants in various offices and of course we used them for Christmas decorating. 

“When my mom died, there were so many bows. Oh my gosh! My family and I had this idea to use them on a Christmas tree. A few of the girls in my shop wanted to put the purple ones together to make a very long ombre garland to decorate a tree. It was then that I had the idea to donate the tree to the Alzheimer’s Association office in Sacramento. At that time, it hadn’t really sunk in that purple was the perfect color! 

“We bring in the tree to the office every year, and when Christmas is over we come back to pick it up and store it in our warehouse until the next year. It’s an awesome way for me to honor my mother and also show gratitude for the amazing work that the Alzheimer’s Association does.

“I learned so much from my mom about the importance of volunteerism and giving back. Wherever my mother is, I’m sure she is loving this.”

Sarah and her siblings hold the turtle urn they bought for their mom who died with Alzheimer's
Sarah H with her sisters and brother

A love of turtles
Sarah of San Jose
Alzheimer’s Association Staff and caregiver

“My mom loved turtles and she would always wear this little turtle necklace,” shared Sarah. “When she passed away from Alzheimer’s disease, my siblings and I held a memorial at the beach on the first anniversary of her passing. We found a turtle urn that dissolves in water to put her ashes into and held a little private ceremony at the water’s edge. Unbeknownst to us, a large crowd of people had gathered behind us and, as my brother in law put the turtle on his surfboard to release the turtle out to sea, the onlookers began cheering. Afterward, many people commented on how beautiful it was. I think my mom would have liked that.”    

Janice and her mom stand in front of the wall of names at Manzanar.
Janice and her mom

Remembering Manzanar
Janice of Reno 

“One of my fondest memories is when I first took my mother to Manzanar War Relocation Center for Japanese-Americans,” shared Janice. “My mother, Shigeko, hadn’t been back to Manzanar since she was relocated there during World War II at age 19. 

“In the early stage of Alzheimer’s she was able to share her experience at camp living in barracks surrounded by barbed wire fences with armed guards. Even in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s she was able to point out her name, as well as her father’s, mother’s and brother’s names on the wall that listed all internees.  

“At 97 years old, my mother always has a positive and happy go lucky attitude. She taught me to see the good in things, even in bad situations.”

A love of peanut butter and summers by the lake
Elizabeth of San Jose
Alzheimer’s Association Staff and caregiver

Elizabeth's mom, who had Alzheimer's is holding her favorite ice cream
Elizabeth’s mom and her ice cream

“My mom had the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I’ve ever met,” said Elizabeth. “I once came home from a trip to Europe with big candy bars for my friends and family. The next day when I went to get them, my mom had eaten every last one of them in the middle of the night – all three pounds!”

“In Maine, ice cream is a favorite treat – our family would go out for ice cream at a local farm stand every few days. My mom loved it all but especially the peanut butter ice cream.  One recent summer we made the rounds to every ice cream stand in a 15 mile radius and bought their peanut butter ice cream. Our family did blind taste tests to find the best (Tubby’s won!). My mom loved it. She could eat it every day all day. When she moved into assisted living, the care providers all knew that a well timed peanut butter cup could brighten even the hardest day.

“When I was a kid we used to go to the lake every summer. After mom moved into assisted living, we rented a cottage on the lake and would bring her there for the day. She was so happy, just sitting there with a big smile on her face, watching children fishing and swimming and listening to the loons calling at sunset. We even took her on the boat and went speeding across the lake to her family’s old cottage. We did that for as long as we could, and made so many memories.”

“101 Mom-isms”
Mary Lynn of Silicon Valley

A photo of Martha who died of Alzheimer's
Mary Lynn’s mom, Martha

“My mom Martha lost her battle with Alzheimer’s disease on May 10, 2012, three days before Mother’s Day that year,” shared Mary Lynn. “This year, Mother’s Day falls on her actual date of passing. While this irony makes Mother’s Day sometimes hard, it also makes it incredibly sweet, for my mom prided herself on being a mom above all else. 

“I regularly refer back to her published book of “˜101 Mom-isms’ A Collection of Wit and Wisdom. Essentially, it is a compilation of sayings and expressions in which she provides kind and sage advice on how to respectfully treat others and respond positively and graciously in challenging situations.  

“My Mom peppered many of her conversations with these mom-isms throughout my entire life, and naturally, every so often, I’ll catch myself sprinkling one of them into my dialogue to illustrate a point and to guide actions.  Even my adult children use her expressions now too, usually preceded by, “˜Well, as Grandma Martha would say, “¦’

“In her book, the #1 mom-ism reads,  “˜Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today‘ and fittingly the last one says,  “˜Be content with what you have, not what you want.‘ I take these sayings to heart: Today is the day – despite the crisis around us – to continue to take action to fight against Alzheimer’s. Take each day for the gift it is with your loved one who is struggling, and try to be wholly present.

“I am grateful for every minute with my Mom, from beginning to end, and for her little book of mom-isms.  Even though I love and miss my mom terribly, I celebrate and embrace Mother’s Day. I’ve come to view Mother’s Day as beautifully bittersweet and take the date coincidence as my mom’s lasting wish for me to strive to be the best mom – and person – I can be every day.”

Green thumb
Liz of Santa Cruz
Alzheimer’s Association Staff and caregiver

Liz's mom who is living with Alzheimer's
Liz’s mom

“As we move into springtime and I start to see my garden blooming I always think of my mom,” shared Liz. “She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s almost four years ago at the age of 72 and I remember one of the first signs that I knew something wasn’t right was how her garden started to look like it wasn’t being cared for. That was NEVER the way my mom’s garden looked! 

“One of my favorite memories of my mom was how happy she was when she was in her garden. She had the most amazing green thumb, no matter where she lived. We always spent time together in her garden whether it was planting new veggies in her small backyard in San Francisco or tending to her flowers and succulents on her small deck in Oakland. She loved to just sit out on that deck with her big sun hat! We had many long talks out there and I do miss that.   

“I definitely didn’t inherit her green thumb but over the last few years, I have taken more interest in trying to make my garden look somewhat like moms. As I clip my rose bush and plant my herbs I can hear her voice giving me advice and it almost makes me feel like she is here with me. That makes me smile.”

Mom’s new toolkit 
Valerie of Merced

Bonnie, who is living with Alzheimer's and her grandchildren
Bonnie with her grandkids

Valerie’s mom Bonnie loves to flip through catalogs for hours. One of her favorite things to dream about was a 130 piece tool kit she can’t use now that she has Alzheimer’s. For Christmas last year, Valerie and her wife bought it for her anyway. Bonnie opened and explored the tool set for two days enjoying it like new every time. 

“On the third day when my mom asked me about the tool kit, I reminded her we got that for her for Christmas,” said Valerie. “My mom looked at me and said, “˜This old thing? I”ve had it under my car seat for years!'” 

Do you have a story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it! Share your story with us at tinyurl.com/alzstory.

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