For the past seven years my husband has been the caretaker of his parents. Driving to see them when they lived several hours away, he was able to help them manage and solve problems they couldn't quite handle on their own. Their needs became more urgent as his dad's memory started to fail and his mother showed signs of caretaker exhaustion. So he decided to move them to Marion where they could live closer to us. He found a nice assisted living facility where they settled in five years ago.
He then became the son who made decisions, brought supplies, managed their finances, answered all their questions and helped them in every way. I often shopped for Martha, finding the piece of clothing she needed or a box of cards, a page of stamps. Our trips to Walmart were a refreshing way for her to get out and see what was happening in the outside world.
We made it a priority to visit them often, usually on Sunday.
Three years ago, after his dad died, every Sunday found us sitting with Martha in her room chatting about the latest book she read, or the most recent piece of news she heard on the evening news. She settled into life without her husband: playing BINGO, enjoying visiting musicians, talking with the ladies at her dining room table and attending chapel services every Sunday.
In the last year or so we came to realize that Martha had been changing. The sharp edges of a strongly opinionated younger woman, gave way to a softer, more expressive, kinder older woman. Our Sunday visits came to include time to color in her coloring book, catch up on the latest with our family, or sit in the courtyard where she could enjoy fresh air and colorful flowers. She stopped reading books and she couldn't follow Sixty Minutes on TV. But there were two shows that held her interest right up to the end: Lawrence Welk and The Gaither Hour. Just the week before she died I listened as she sang along with the performer as he sang a favorite song.
She was blessed with three great grandchildren, the first coming when she was 94 years old. She delighted in seeing them and I showed her many photos on my phone after a visit with them.
On October 18, Martha passed away at 97 years of age. The breast cancer for which she had refused treatment finally did its destructive work and she died within a few days after starting to decline.
Sundays have changed. We have options now. We continue our morning church routine but afternoons are wide open. How about a hike, a bike ride or maybe even a nap? But we hold those Sunday visits close to our hearts. Having no regrets, we are thankful for the opportunity we had to care for her, to see her softening and to get to know her better because the walls came down a bit.
Sometimes Brian would ask his mother if he could read her a psalm. Her answer was always the same, "That would be alright." Then she would quietly wait for him. We read this at her celebration of life service:
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness, come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
We are thankful that his faithfulness came to us through the generation ahead of us, and now it moves to the next generation. God is good and his love endures forever.
May she rest in peace.
Our Sundays will never be the same. But one thing will never change. We will cherish the memories of the past five years and give thanks to God for Martha and her well lived life.