In Memory of Her Good Heart, Not Her Alzheimer’s Disease

A very special birthday tribute to a columnist's late mother

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by Ray Burow |

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On Jan. 26, my mother would have celebrated her 96th birthday. Oh, how I miss her.

A woman of faith, my mother is in a far better place today — a city made without hands (Hebrews 11:10), sans Alzheimer’s disease. She “went home” in 2012, and I’ve thought about her every day since. But on her birthday, I am knee-deep in sweet memories.

My mom, Ruth, loved her name. She told me once that naming a child Ruth is a good idea because she’d never met a bad Ruth. She wasn’t wrong.

I shared caregiving responsibilities with her namesake, my older sister. My sister Ruth has always been a godsend, especially to our mother and the rest of our family as we navigated the deep and often dark waters of Alzheimer’s. My siblings — Ruth, my brother, and my younger sister — are essential to the legacy our mother left us. We’re grateful for the shared memories of our mother and father, and we can only think of one with the other.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and its characteristics are overwhelming. The late stages of the disease stole mom’s cognitive ability, and we were often granted only glimpses of the old Ruth. Yet even with dementia, she remained sweet. Her memories faded, as they do for anyone with the disease, but a quiet inner strength remained.

Alzheimer’s takes center stage in our relationships with loved ones who are diagnosed with the disease, and the person we love recedes into the background. They are the same person we always knew, yet different because Alzheimer’s has robbed them of so much.

However, on this side of the disease, its thievery is done. It can’t take away anything from “Ruth T.,” as my mom used to refer to herself, and it can’t rob our family of the precious memories.

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Grateful hearts

Dad passed away first, and though it broke our hearts, we were grateful that he wasn’t present for our mother’s progression with a disease that ultimately returned her to him. My parents were a power couple, but not in the way most people define the term. They were a perfect complement to each other, loving life and people. Hard work was always coupled with play.

I’ve never met two people who loved to work as much as they did, but it wasn’t the type of work that had them climbing the corporate ladder. They weren’t workaholics, stealing time from their family and each other. They incorporated the things they loved to do with their love of family, friends, and, yes, perfect strangers. They fed on each other’s ideas and hobbies and worked intensely to meet shared goals.

Pickled cucumbers and other delicacies

Huge gardens grew on the one-and-a-quarter acres of land my parents had cleared with their bare hands. Thousands of green beans were picked and prepared in the kitchen. My mother worked as diligently as my dad to plant and harvest hundreds of green beans and tomatoes. Together, and with reluctant children, they picked, scrubbed, and peeled knobby cucumbers to make delicious pickles and chow-chow (relish).

Variations of vegetables and fruit graced our dinner table each summer and through the fall and winter months, but ours wasn’t the only one. Sharing was caring to my parents, so neighbors, extended family, and a favorite local food pantry also benefited.

Too many turkeys and chickens to count were raised throughout the years. My parents shared the wealth of the hens and gave away many turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can’t imagine the work involved in the hot days of summer and the bitter cold of winter, and it was all for the purpose of sharing the bounty. Christmas trees from their little property stood in the foyer of a local church. Dinners went out to the sick. Cakes and pies were baked for the bereaved.

A life well lived

Recently, my church arranged a meal train for a congregant. I chose my mother’s birthday to make and deliver dinner. I would make a meal for my friend regardless, but it’s a special honor to remember my mother in this way.

How many cakes she baked, and what pies she made for other people! When complimented on her good deed, she’d reply, “Oh, that’s just ‘reasonable service,'” a reference to another Bible passage (Romans 12:1-2).

I have often thought I’ll write a book one day and title it “Bake a Cake in Jesus’ Name.” It hasn’t happened yet, but if it does one day, remember, you heard it here first.

Happy birthday, Mom! We’ll meet you in the morning.

Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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