I’ve collected a few hero’s on my life’s journey. Author and Missionary Elisabeth Elliot is one, Alveda King and Glenn Beck are two more. I have never met any of them, but I have learned so much from these three people about life, about following Christ and doing the right thing, even when it is hard. I’ve learned it from reading their books and seeing them on TV. But now, I have a new hero, one who I have most definitely met and have always admired, but now is truly an inspiration to me. That new hero is my sister Carolyn.
My mother, who will be 101 years old in March had always seemed ageless. She lived by herself, drove her car up until four years ago and is the most fiercely independent person I have ever known. Slowly over the last few years and especially the last several months, it became more and more apparent that she shouldn’t be living on her own. Her hands, twisted by arthritis, don’t work very well anymore. Dressing herself had become an hour long chore because of those hands. Ever so resourceful, she took an old embroidery hook that belonged to her mother, pushed it through the buttonhole to eventually grab the button and pull it through the hole. Her eyesight is virtually nonexistent and her hearing is becoming that way. Although her mind is sharp as can be, because of her lack of sight and hearing it is becoming harder and harder for her to follow conversations. She gets so frustrated when she can’t think of the words she wants to use. We have to explain who someone is, because she no longer immediately recognizes names of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Carolyn had always said when the time came, Mother could come and live with her and her husband Jack. The second week of October, that time came.
I, Carolyn, my brother Steve and other sister Mary, were very relieved when Mother finally came to that decision because frankly, we did not know how she was living by herself any longer. (Reference above where I said she was FIERCELY independent!) We encouraged, encouraged, encouraged her toward moving in with Carolyn, but she was determined it would be her decision, not her children’s! Finally, because of the impending winter, she decided it was time. What a relief to no longer have to worry about something happening to her in her home by herself.
I have been to see Mother probably five or six times since then and try to call and visit with her a couple of times a week. After only a week or so, I could not believe how much brighter and cheerier her voice was and how nice she looked! Her fingernails are always painted a bright color thanks to Carolyn’s daughter Marcy, her hair always looks nice, thanks to a weekly salon visit and she is always dressed so nice and fashionably! I’m always struck by how soft her hands are when I hold them. When I told her that, she said, “Well Carolyn always rubs some kind of lotion on them for me.” Every time I see her, she bemoans the fact that she can no longer do anything, she so badly wants to be able to help and to be busy. She always lets me know, “I still do the dishes for Carolyn!” Carolyn always smiles and winks and I can see in that wink (as well as past experiences in my home when Mother was here) that those dishes are done over again when Mother is out of eyesight! But it is so important to her to feel useful and needed.
But, I can also see the aging process has not stopped its cruel march. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I can tell, she has slipped just a bit more each time I see her. And I can see how it is a full-time job for Carolyn to give her such wonderful care. It is like having a baby in the house. She has to help her with her baths and bathroom needs, help her get dressed, undressed and ready for bed. She takes her to the hairdresser, to the doctor and on outings. Mother’s every need is met quickly and cheerfully. Carolyn’s day is filled with meeting those needs and keeping her entertained with conversation, audio books and Mother’s old records playing loudly in the background. All of this is done so cheerfully and without a single complaint.
My brother Steve and sister Mary do what they can to help Carolyn out. Steve brings Mother down to see her friends and attend her old church occasionally. He picks her up and takes her to his house on Thursdays. Mary is going to have Mother for the next two weeks while Carolyn and Jack take a much-needed trip to visit Jack’s family. But, as is typical for people of that age, she has become extremely dependent on Carolyn. Last week when Mother was at Steve’s house for only three hours, she told him she wanted to go back to Carolyn. And she confided to Steve and Carolyn that she “Didn’t want to ruin Carolyn’s trip, but she didn’t think Mary would be able to take care of her the way Carolyn could and she didn’t think this was a good idea Carolyn being gone for two weeks.” They assured her Mary was perfectly capable of giving her just as good of care as Carolyn did! (Mary and Carolyn are both retired registered nurses.) Carolyn’s house has become home to Mother and Carolyn has become her caretaker and her crutch. And as I said, Carolyn and Jack do it all with such love, kindness and good humor. What an example of living for Christ! Now, I have another hero. I can only wish to ever emulate any of them!
“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his own life for that of another”