My Mother-in-law died this past Thursday. Greta called me in the afternoon to say, “Mom’s gone…” It wasn’t entirely unexpected. Marlene had Alzheimer’s and has been in a steady decline for about 9 years. Her diagnosis was 7 years ago, I think, so Loy (Greta’s father) has been in an extended grieving process since that day. In late fall of this past year, Loy decided she needed more care than he was able to give her at home, so they moved Marlene into an assisted living facility in the same community and close to their home. Her health deteriated quickly, or so it seemed to me. The funeral will be this coming Saturday, January 30, 2010.
It will be a strange and hard week for the family. Especially strange for Greta and me, because our court date to finalize our divorce is Tuesday of this week. (More about that in a subsequent blog.) Loy decided to wait so Marlene’s family could get in town. Marlene had 3 sisters and one brother. There are only 2 sisters remaining, and one also has Alzheimer’s. Her family has always been close so many will make the trip across the country to say good-bye to “Aunt Molly.” Tough week ahead.
Marlene was the quintessencial Southern Lady. Loy describes her approach to life this way… ” For Marlene, there were only two ways… this way and that way. Right and wrong. That wasn’t always easy to live with, but I’m a better man because of her.” Wow. Marlene was a 7th grade English teacher who believed in the rules of grammar. You followed the rules. Either you used the English language correctly or incorrectly. She pretty much lived her life in the same manner… follow the rules:
If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right.
Always put your best foot forward.
When something works, stay with it.
God and church first, family next, and yourself last.
Duty without regard to how you feel about it.
She always sang in the church choir…alto. She served as the Missionary President in their church. Her perspective being that she didn’t need to always agree with the pastor, she was serving God, not the pastor. When personal difficulties arose, she maintained a serene, public persona. Dignity. An entirely English perspective. She held to her privacy tenaciously. I think this stance brought loneliness to her, but she built into her day time to deal with her difficulties alone with God. Marlene was a Speech major in College, so she would perform readings infrequently at church… perfectly enunciated… and powerfully effective.
After finding out about her death, I notified Baird and Hannah. Baird and his girlfriend, Ryann, came to Olathe to pick up Hannah and me so we could spend Thursday evening with Loy and the family. Loy wanted Baird and me to be pallbearers, and we will. He also asked if Anna Margaret, Greta’s sister, would sing the first verse of “It is Well With My Soul,” a favorite song of Marlene’s. Scott came down from Iowa to care for Greta, and pitch in where needed. It was good. I was reminded again of the depth of God’s grace. When life meets death… grace, forgiveness, love… become the only important things.
Later in the evening, when Loy, Baird, and I had a quiet moment together, Loy said, “Marlene really liked you, Larry.” It didn’t always seem that way. We approached life from very different perspectives, yet we met at the throne of God. Our shared love for God helped us walk past possible disagreements, sometimes. But, ALWAYS, I knew Marlene’s highest priority was to live a life honoring to the Lord. I respected that. She liked the manner in which I communicated… did I phrase that correctly, Marlene? Actually, reading a letter I wrote to Greta was when she began to decide I might be worthy of dating her daughter. As the years progressed, I began to learn just how high praise that was. Actually, I wrote a blog about how Alzheimer’s changed the nature of our relationship for the better. You can read it here:
As I carry her to rest on Saturday, I will remember her tenacious love of God and protection of her family.
A Southern Lady indeed….