The words in red

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Riverbend Realty, Cape Girardeau, MO 2004008944

"Hi, Honey!" Mom said as she saw me walking toward her. My breath caught in my throat as a rim of tears encircled my eyes. Blinking hard, I struggled to swallow and put on a broad smile as I said, "Well, hi there, Mom! You are looking great!" A few minutes into our conversation, she used my name, and I fought to remain composed as I nearly dissolved into a pool of emotion. Until that moment, I had been filled with a dreadful fear that she might have forgotten my name.

Today is Mom's birthday, and every day is precious. Every Mother's Day. Every time I see her. Every pedicure date. Every day that she is not in the hospital. Every day that my siblings and I are not called upon to make medical decisions. Every day she knows who she is and who we are.

For you see, our Mom has Alzheimer's dementia. For years, I have been comforted by the fact that Mom knows who she is and who we are, though there were other signs. Troubling signs. Increasing numbers of signs. Personality changes. Anger. Confusion. Delusions. Fear. Strange elation. Disjointed mumblings. Chatter. Long spans of silence. Labeling objects with their names. Inattentiveness. Hyper focus. Attaching names from her past to people in her present. Assigning a family connection to nearly everyone she meets. That last one really confuses her. "I know he's my Uncle Bascomb, but he won't admit it. Maybe he forgot," she might say about the man down the hall.

After taking care of my Dad's Dad and then Dad, both in semi-invalid condition for years before they died, Mom had precious little time before she started having serious health issues herself. Crohn's disease has plagued her and resulted in several hospitalizations. In between all of that, she had to have a hysterectomy. An ill-fated attempt by the 4-foot, 11-inch lady to change a lightbulb over the sink in her bathroom resulted in a fall that bPedicuresroke bones in her face and put her back in the hospital's surgical suite. The thought of her face and head hitting first the sink, then the commode, and then the bathtub and the floor still sickens us.

Following one of her bowel resection surgeries, she fell and broke a hip within minutes of being dismissed from the hospital. Right back to the hospital for yet another surgery she went.

She contracted MRSA during one of her first hospital stays, and that has been a recurring problem for years. She now tests positive for more than one strain of MRSA, having contracted strains in two different hospitals. She's had life-threatening pneumonia three times.

Last year, she spent three weeks in ICU, eventually needing both a respirator and a feeding peg, as she battled a beast known as organizing pneumonia. Doctors gave us no hope that she would live and told me to "call the family." The horrible initials DNR, faced years ago during Dad's last days, came back into our lives. But the doctors were wrong this time. On the day we were making arrangements to transfer her from the hospital ICU to an LTAC (long term acute care hospital), Mom managed to wean from the respirator.

During some of Mom's worst illness, my sister Linda has been in a frightening, long battle with breast cancer. Linda is winning her fight with the Big C. She is, after all, related to Mom!

Two aunts passed away this year, Mom's last sibling and one of Dad's sisters. When I told Mom about her sister's death, her response was framed by her own deep faith, "She's in Heaven now." When Mom was so near death herself last year, hours before she was put on the respirator, she told me, "Jesus lifts you up. He never lets you down. You know, it's really not hard to understand, if you just listen to the words in red." The words in red. The words of Jesus.

Through it all, Mom has surprised doctors and nurses around her. Through it all, she loves and is loved by her family. And she knows it. And she knows us. Dementia has taken much, but much remains. Maybe my name is not Honey, just yet. This year and this birthday, she knows us and she knows the words in red...


UPDATE April 16, 2015...It's now almost three years since I wrote this blog, and my sister Linda is doing well. She has many issues that are radiation and chemotherapy related, but she is still cancer free. I don't even remember how many surgeries she ended up having. Recovery from a double mastectomy and subsequent reconstruction is tough, really tough. Linda ended up having to go on disability, but she continued to visit almost daily the nursing home where she had worked and where Mom lived...until Mom died on March 31, 2015. In addition to scripture passages Mom had copied in a note we found in her photo box, the pastor also used this blog entry in her funeral message. We had two more birthdays with Mom and two more Mother's Days. We almost made it to three. The last time I saw Mom, 12 days before her spirit was ushered away to Heaven, she used my name. I never did become "Honey."

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If you are looking for a foreclosure in Cape Girardeau, Perry, N. Scott, or Bollinger counties, I am the region's most experienced REO agent. As the area's ONLY Fannie Mae direct listing agent, I list more foreclosure properties than any other agent in this MLS. I am among the few local agents approved to both list and sell HUD properties. Give me a call if you are looking for help with the purchase of a foreclosure property.

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Comments (94)

Mary Hillerman

HUGS  to you and your family and all others that have to live through this cruel disease....  no one told us when we were 4 and playing with dolls that our mommies would soon (many years pass, but it will always be soon)  be like our dolls and we would have to take care of them the best or better than we could ever imagine.

May 13, 2012 10:49 AM
Michelle Chauvin
Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas and Henderson, NV

I just love the words in red (on so many levels).  I read them everyday.  Never thought of it as the words in red, even though I have noticed it and always wondered why the publishers do that.  Now I know.  Because there is a lady out there, your mom, that through the Alzheimers understands the words in red.

Our God is an awesome God.  Your mom is truly blessed.

May 13, 2012 12:10 PM
Karen Steed
Tallapoosa, Bremen, Waco, Buchanan, Temple, Carrollton - Tallapoosa, GA
Associate Broker Haralson Realty

Beautiful of luck and may God continue to bless you.

May 13, 2012 01:45 PM
Gary & April Greer
Realty ONE Group Southwest - Temecula, CA
Real Estate Professionals

What a beautiful tribute to the love in your family.  God bless you and yours.

May 13, 2012 01:49 PM
Michelle Fradella-Barfuss
Broker, Marketing Coach, Trainer - Red Rock Real Estate - Salt Lake City, UT
Author of "Top 10 Mistakes Agents Make When Market

What a wonderful post, Liz!  My heart goes out to you and your family.  My Grandmother is suffering from Alzheimers, as well.  Most of the time she's not the woman that she use to be.  She use to be a go-getter, a loving woman.  The symptoms you described are so exact.  

"The words in red" - the wonderful words of Jesus that can lift our souls and give us comfort.  

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post!

May 13, 2012 02:00 PM
Nancy Galvan

This touches home - first my mother then my husband.

May 13, 2012 02:16 PM
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Amen, the words in Red.  I am sure your mother is still here because God still has a purpose for her, in your life and in others.  

May 13, 2012 03:15 PM
Allen Henderson
Henderson Real Estate - Scottsdale, AZ

Great story and great reminder Liz. Remember he gives us light unto our feet (not light 50 feet ahead, light for the next step) and strength for the day. One day at a time and today is good. Be blessed! Mom too!

May 13, 2012 03:51 PM
Lisa Taylor

Wow, Liz.  A beautiful and articulate tribute to your mother!

May 13, 2012 09:58 PM
Peter Michelbach
International, IT
i Sell Real Estate

Liz - thank you for sharing a wonderful story of love, respect, compassion and connection not just to your beautiful mum, but to universal love and upholding the traditions of past, when connecting, supporting and holding high Christian traditions. Ma'am, God bless you!

May 13, 2012 11:22 PM
Brad Baylor
ERA Coup Agency - Milton, PA

Liz - Had to grab the tissues.  Thanks for sharing this very emotional story.  Hang in there!

May 13, 2012 11:30 PM
Karen Crowson
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Rancho Bernardo, CA
Your Agent for Change

Liz, what a heartfelt story and such a loving tribute to your Mom on Mother's Day. Bless you.

May 14, 2012 01:37 AM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Liz, what a special post and tribute to your mom!  It is also about the outstanding and caring woman who wrote the post. You are what life is all about.  I believe that we are here to help others get though life.  It is clear that you excel at helping others.

May 14, 2012 02:06 AM
Duane West
3R's Construction & Remodeling - Salem, OR


I am always thrilled to see people post and include the influence of thier faith on thier life and business and what is so awesome is that in a field of professionals that is often labled in not so positive a lite that so many are touched and encouraged by your story. Make me proud to be part of this community!

May 14, 2012 02:48 AM
Sherry Casper


Having had my favorite Aunt Bernice pass away less than a month ago in Nebraska, leaving only my Aunt Marian to survive my mother's family unit, I have been on the phone with Marian several times since returning home to California. It seems so many have forgotten the "words in red". 

Matthew 5, the Beatitudes says in RED LETTERS: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

The Lord is blessing both you and your mother with grace, great compassion and love as He shows you, and many other witnesses, how He uses the weak, the meek, the blind and the crippled to glorify HIS NAME.

God bless your family and all those who take your mother's testimony to heart!


May 14, 2012 03:49 AM
Sharon LittleJohn
Summit Funding, Inc. - Dallas, TX
972-365-1084 NMLS#32965, FHA VA USDA Conventional



What a warm and beautiful post. Your mother obviously raised great children- a true testament to her.

I am happy you had a wonderful visit. I pray you will have many, many more!

Take Care


May 14, 2012 04:37 AM
Kim Mulligan
Engel & Völkers Seattle/Eastside - Seattle, WA
Selling Homes for the 21st Century

What a great example your mother is. She doesn't just give up. You are lucky to have her still in your life. Even better you have the wisdom to realize it! All the best to you and your family.

May 14, 2012 07:05 AM
Eugene Adan
Adan Properties, Carlsbad, CA (760) 720-9710 - Carlsbad, CA
Carlsbad Real Estate

So moving!

May 14, 2012 08:21 AM
Elva Branson-Lee
Solid Source Realty GA - Atlanta, GA
CDPE - Atlanta Real Estate & Short Sale Agent

This touched my heart, Liz, as it has so many others who have been through the long and difficult ordeal of losing a loved one to dementia before losing them to death. Thanks for shairng.

May 14, 2012 08:37 AM
Rebecca Flansburg
LAMS Communications Virtual Assistant Services - Baxter, MN

What an amazing and touching story. Thank you so much for sharing ((HUGS))

May 14, 2012 10:33 AM