DALLAS — Editor's note: This story contains real and personal images, video and descriptions of a woman at the end of her battle with Alzheimer's.
For Lexi and Ana Shoemaker, their favorite childhood memories are with their mother.
"I used to, when I was younger, make my mom be in photoshoots for me," Lexi said. Their mom, Elena Shoemaker, would dress up and smile for pictures. Art was an important part of their upbringing.
As adults, Lexi and Ana are doing it again, taking photos of Elena in bright colors, fun poses and a vast wardrobe.
"It was funny, and it was charming," Ana said. "And it was something we would have done when we were kids with my mom anyway."
The difference is when they were young, the photo shoots were just a hobby. But as adults, each photo is a way of freeze-framing a pain millions of families share every year.
Elena Shoemaker has Alzheimer's disease. It's been a struggle for 10 years.
"It's terrible. It's the worst when your parents don't remember who you are anymore. That's what being a kid is about. When you don't have anyone to call and tell your meaningless stuff to. It's like, what is life for?" Lexi said.
Lexi began to search for an answer, and found it in this photography project. It helps the sisters heal and find comfort. They call it "Alz Is Fierce."
When Elena entered 24-hour care, Lexi and Ana had one final photoshoot. They surrounded Elena in bright colors and quilts as she laid in a bed of fresh sunflowers and roses.
"When she passes, she can look down and say 'Oh, this looks good,'" Lexi said.
Even as Elena's memories disappeared, she taught her girls until the end.
"Every obstacle, I just realize I was able to overcome it," Ana said.
"I finally know what real love is. It's how to love somebody who can't love you back," Lexi said.
The intimate photos show other families they are not alone.
Through their Instagram page @alzisfierce, people sharing a similar pain are finding comfort in the posts of Elena.
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