My mother completed her life right after Thanksgiving, 2011. It was a good life, and she was grateful for all that she had received and accomplished in her nearly 90 years on this earth. My two sisters and our families are her crowning legacy. We continue to harvest the goodness, blessing, and abundance of our parents lives. Our dad completed his life in October, 1998, after a long journey with Alzheimer’s disease. It is likely not a coincidence that they both died in autumn, the season of harvest. In the prime of their lives they were hard-working farmers, and harvest time was the culmination of preparing, planting, nurturing, and tending the crops. Harvest meant gathering the bounty, resting from their labor, and allowing the land to lay fallow until spring. Harvest was a time to gather and release with Thanksgiving being the reward for all of it.
The last few years of mom’s life were challenging, as she was bent over with osteoporosis and lived out her days in a nursing home in Iowa. Her philosophy had always been, you just have to make the best of things. She practiced what she preached as she watched our dad go away into the darkness of Alzheimer’s, and had to make the hard decision to place him in a dementia care unit three years before he died. A few years later, after two successful hip replacement surgeries, but with increasing weakness and inability to keep up her home and live independently, she had to make another hard decision to move into assisted living. She adjusted very well to that environment and loved the camaraderie, the activities, and living just down the hall from her only surviving sibling, Marie. They loved fixing puzzles, listening to music, and the great meals they shared each day in the lovely dining room.
Continued weakness, decline, and the need for more assistance led to one final hard decision for mom. Actually, it was not her choice, but she reluctantly agreed that she needed more help and the nursing home was the next and hardest move for her. Prior to the move, she said, I would really rather go to heaven to be with your dad. She was also always the first to say, Gods will be done. She realized it wasnt yet her time to go to heaven, so with grace and unfailing faith, she let us downsize her possessions one more time. We moved her from her comfortable apartment in assisted living, to a small shared space in the nursing home. That was a heart-breaking day for me and my sisters. I am seldom ill, but I was physically sick that day and unable to help as much I normally would.
Once again, our mother showed us the way, and accepted that she needed to make yet another hard move. She participated in every activity that was offered and made the best of it. She was well loved and cared for in her last home. It is not easy to give up ones independence. Waiting was the hardest part for her. My mother was a doer, getting things done was important to her. Waiting was not her strong suit, but she learned to do so to wait to go to the bathroom, to wait to be escorted to/from the dining room, to wait to die she learned to be patient. Her parting words of wisdom for her family were, Be strong and wait for the Lord.
My parents were always big proponents of insurance. They purchased long-term care insurance before anyone thought it was a good idea. We were skeptical when they first made that decision. They were still very independent, and healthy at the time. We wondered about the wisdom of paying the premiums, and if it would actually pay should they need it. As it turned out they were right, and it was worth it. Both used the benefits, and they did not have to pay out-of-pocket all of the unbelievably high dollar amounts of long-term care costs.
My sisters and I look back now and see the wisdom and legacy that our parents left us, and we are most grateful. They taught us wonderful values in the way they lived, and in the way they died. Faith, family, and friends were most important. Working hard, planning, being prepared, and living frugally and simply was their motto in their productive years. Loss of productivity and independence was the hardest task in their later years, but they accepted the challenge with as much grace and dignity as possible. Thanks mom and dad for showing us the way. Well done!