Uncle Klynn and Aunt Margie
My Aunt Margaret Cole surrendered her spirit to her Lord Jesus on March 11. She had spent the last years of her life in a losing battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
When it comes to diseases Alzheimer’s and cancer both suck. However, in most cases, unless it directly attacks the brain, like it did in my neighbor Don’s case, cancer destroys the body…Alzheimer’s destroys mind and body, and in many cases, like that of my dearest aunt, a person’s very essence. I believe that it is the much crueler fate.
I think her battle was especially tough on her as her older brother was passing from the same disease when she first noticed her own symptoms. She really did a marvelous job during those first few years of working to keep her mind as focused, active, rational and relational as possible. But, the slide of Alzheimer’s was still inevitable and relentless.
At first her devoted husband took care of her. Their loving relationship was one romance fanatics could only dream about. They were devoted to one another. Then, just as her condition began to worsen rapidly, he suffered a major stroke. Since both of them now needed around the clock care…their daughter, husband and granddaughter moved home to care for them.
It was hard. Hard on everyone. Lots of adjustments and challenges.
Eventually, Alzheimer’s robbed us all of the woman we loved…wife, mother, grandmother, sister, cousin and aunt.
When I was diagnosed with the cancer Multiple Myeloma seven years ago and was confined to a bed for years…my aunt Margie never forgot me. In fact, she called me at least once a week. She always had a Bible study prepared for us to share. Our conversations could last for hours. In addition to her scheduled calls, sometimes there were unexpected calls. Oddly, those calls always came during my dark times…she somehow felt that I needed her and would always listen to that feeling and call. She lifted me up.
As the years went by I grew stronger and due to necessity our roles reversed. It was my turn to call her. My turn to organize the Bible study. My turn to listen to my feeling and call her whenever I thought of her. My turn to listen to frustrations and fears.
When she couldn’t see well enough to read her Bible anymore, I sent her one with extra large 18-point font and in addition a desk top magnifier with its own light. Then spent days worrying that the Bible would be too heavy for her to lift. The large print and magnifier worked alright for awhile. Too, soon she lost her ability to read completely. Oh, how she grieved the loss of reading. As a former school teacher reading was another of the loves of her life, especially reading scripture.
So, I sent her the Bible on audio tape.
I don’t believe this ever worked out too well, as by then even that simple recorder was too difficult for her to navigate. Then, too, her hearing was being taken away by the disease.
Eventually, I would call just to read her Bible Verses…John 3:16….Psalm 27…Psalm 23 and many others.
Too soon our phone calls had to cease. Once in a while she’d ask to call me and it was so very wonderful just to hear the sound of her voice. Even if I wasn’t sure she still knew who I was, or how disjointed our conversation.
I will greatly miss my Aunt Margie. It has been a long winter for me. In addition to being basically totally housebound since October due to health, weather, snow, ice and slipping hazards, there has been a lot of goodbyes. First I lost my good friend El, then, my Aunt Dee, then neighbor Don, then, cousin Mim, then, a wonderful friend Scott Carlson and now Aunt Margie.
Heck of a deal.
Sun still came up this morning and it shines warm and bright.
Just as bright as the call I received from my cousin Laurie, the daughter who cared for my Aunt and Uncle for the past year. I thought it was my turn to lift her up, but I have not even been able to bring myself to buy a sympathy card..too soon…too hard.
Laurie shared what my aunt’s last month was like.
For the last month of her life Aunt Margie was transported mentally back to the farm she grew up on in Minnesota. And spent much time with the folks from back home especially, her brothers. Laurie shared that one day Aunt Margie announced that she would like to have a tea party and invite her sister Ruth Marie. The thing is…her sister Ruth Marie had been born with multiple birth defects and had died as a small infant. Laurie, asked me if it was possible that her mother was already in heaven. I believe that she was and Ruth Marie was hale and hearty and recognizable to Aunt Margie as a playable-sized sister.
The other story that Laurie shared was that one day when she was trying to get her mother to eat which at that time was already quite a process and consisted of the occasional spoonful of yogurt or apple sauce. Aunt Margie commenced to lead a very robust prayer meeting and Bible study. Laurie said she really had to be on her toes to get a spoonful of sustenance in here or there.
Then, Aunt Margie announced, “Let’s sing.” Laurie said she tried to remember every old Lutheran hymn Aunt Margie had learned in Sunday School as a child and they sang them all…together. I asked Laurie if Aunt Margie remembered the words. Yes, she said every last one of them.
Which just goes to show that God always keeps his promises…and the importance of good parenting.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
One of my Aunt’s greatest fears about her disease is that somehow she would forget her Lord Jesus Christ and lose her salvation. We discussed this a lot over the past several years and months. With God’s own words I could assure her that, that would never, ever happen.
Faith is heart knowledge, not head knowledge. Once we ask the Lord to enter our hearts, he hangs onto us…we don’t have to worry about hanging on to him.
And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.
And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.
For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.
Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.
Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.
Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
Aunt Margie’s showed great courage during her illness. In her case the “false witness that breathed out cruelty” and “will of her enemies” that had risen against her was a disease…Alzheimer’s disease. She had no evil to fear as God, the most loving of all parents, protects and never forsakes his children. He strengthened her heart, and she waited on her Lord.
Two summers ago I made the long trip out to Montana to visit my Aunt Margie. Our visit went by far too quickly. We shared many hugs in the doorway before our departure. Then we looked into each other eyes for which we both knew would be the last time. She gave me a bright smile and said, “If I don’t see you again in this world, I will see you in the next!”
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Surely goodness and mercy followed my Aunt Margie all the days of her life and now she dwells in the house of the Lord forever!
Always, but especially during the season of Lent, it so important to remember that Jesus defeated both death and the devil on the cross. Therefore there is no evil to fear, for Jesus is always with us. He is our hope, salvation, ticket to heaven and eternal life. Death has lost its sting.
John 3: 16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Children’s Story about a Grandmother teaching her grandchildren about Jesus.