The Red Suitcase – A Care Partner Responds with Poetry

The Red Suitcase – A Care Partner Responds with Poetry post page

Online Dementia Journal

By Online Dementia JournalJune 23rd, 2020

The Red Suitcase – A Care Partner Responds with Poetry

by Fiona van Wissen,

Family Care Partner

It had been about six weeks since I'd last seen my mum when I got a phone call from her long-term care nurse on a Sunday afternoon asking for her red suitcase. I asked mum if she was thirsty and she was. I suggested she ask for a cup of milk. I even heard her ask the staff right away. She has amazing care partners, but I miss her so much.

I have to go she told me, I'm in this chair. I can't wait til 3pm.

Then one of the Personal Support Workers (PSW’s) came on the phone and asked about the red suitcase mum was looking for. I was curious why it was the red suitcase mum was looking for as I had never heard her ask for a suitcase that color before. So, I asked Teepa on Facebook. The next day I was so very excited by Teepa's answer.

And, as I write this on May 28th, a red cardinal sits on a branch of the Magnolia tree outside my window. I am sitting here in the room that was my parents, in the house I lived in as a child, and where I returned to care for my parents. I just never expected I would be caring for my mother from a distance. I sit here alone. The cardinal flies off. It will be back another day.

Dedicated to my mother, Isobel, library technician, storyteller, and traveler

who left Scotland to get married and raise her daughters in Canada.

With much gratitude to Teepa Snow and team, dementia educators extraordinaire.

The Red Suitcase

Find my red suitcase,


Sing me a song of Scotland

Tell me a story of travelling

Show me the smile of my mother

and walk me to the door of my heart.

I need to go home.

She is Here

She is Here

Standing at the door

Red suitcase in hand.

She is HOME!

She is coming home to stay

She will open her red case

and gently smooth out

the creases of each

broken piece

of our hearts

hers and mine,

and hang them carefully

in the closet.

She is home.

She is home to stay.

And all of my heart,

comes home to me,

carried inside my mother's red suitcase.

The Fireman's Ball

Carrying my red suitcase, full of love and memories…

My mother opens her vanity case, dancing shoes neatly nestled inside

All I wish for her is this...the joy of the dance, to sing and sway surrounded by love

Dressed in her finest swirling skirt, matching hat and gloves, pearls and heels,

To know the love of family and friends, near and far, those of today and of days past

She often spoke of The Fireman’s Ball...just the place for a beloved red case, her red shoes and purse...

Red Bird

Red Bird, Red Bird

Fly on,

Fly high,

Red Bird

Fly free and

Set the sky

on Fire

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