Monday, May 5, 2008

Fun Monday-My Hero

This week's Fun Monday host is Katie at Kitten's Home School. She wants us to write about our hero. I have several, including my parents, my grandfathers who fought in World Wars I and II and my uncle who fought in the Vietnam War. They are heroes for the way they have handled life and the curves it has thrown them. The hero I'm writing about today though, is my neighbor, Delores E. She is my hero for the way she handled life....and death.



Fourteen years ago we bought a house in the subdivision in which my husband was raised. Our house was next to his parents' house. In fact, when he was a boy he helped to plant the big maple tree in our front yard. Many of our neighbors were the folks he grew up around. There was Mr. R. next door who had been through three wives, two of them from mail order bride catalogs. There were the A.'s who lived on the corner and owned an appliance store. And there was Brother E. who lived across the street from us and two houses down. Brother E. had been a Pentecostal minister for several decades, leading his flock with the help of his wife, Delores. When we arrived in this neighborhood she was one of the first people to introduce herself to me. I was immediately drawn to her gentle manner and soothing voice. She spoke softly and exuded kindness in everything she did. Her long, up swept hair was always in place, but never in a fussy way. Her clothes were neat and accessorized in a classical manner, but she was never stuffy. She and Brother E. were never able to have children, so the church was their child. They poured their hearts into the church, with him guiding from the pulpit and her keeping the books and running the show behind the scenes. They truly were partners in everything they did.


As neighbors we waved at each other across the street. In warm weather we chatted at the mailboxes and in the middle of the street. Brother E. showed us how to sit near his beehives and safely watch the bees pour into them at sunset. At Christmas Teen Angel and I trekked around the neighborhood handing out homemade cakes and treats, and our stop at the E.'s was always one of our favorites. We were always invited in for egg nog, cookies and a seat by the fireplace. The fire was warm, and the conversation was even warmer. Delores always made you feel as comfortable at her house as you did in your own home, and she always gave us hugs when we left. She was just the kind of person who didn't deserve for bad things to happen to her. And they never seemed to. Until about four years ago.


After some ill health and several tests, she received the bad news that she had ovarian cancer. The local doctors were unsure just how serious it was, so they sent her to a large medical center about three hours from here. The verdict was bad. The cancer was well progressed and needed aggressive treatment. They were optimistic, though. I'm sure she cried, but I never saw her shed a tear. She faced all aspects of her disease in the same way she treated her neighbors, with grace. A Pentecostal woman takes great care not to cut her hair. It's a symbol of her faith. She knew she would lose her hair during treatment, but she didn't fret about it. She simply went to the wig store, picked out a wig that matched her hair color and purchased it to wear when she came home from the hospital.


Her surgery went well. The treatments were horrible and made her terribly ill, but she smiled through it all and eventually was walking around the neighborhood with Brother E. by her side. Whenever we saw her, she always turned the conversation from her illness to her concerns about whatever was going on in our lives. For several months she slowly improved, giving us all hope that she was going to kick cancer's butt. She proudly wore her wig and went back to work at the church. But the cancer never went away, and it gradually started to take more control over her body. There were more tests and more treatments. When she began experimental treatments, we knew it was bad. She and Brother E. spent days at a time in a nearby city while she underwent extremely painful and debilitating procedures. While they were away, Hubby mowed their yard and checked their mail. Daily, the mailbox was stuffed full of get well cards from the hundreds of people who knew and loved Delores. It was obvious she had touched many lives with that same grace and kindness she had always shared with us.


She came home during the summer, and we knew she had come home to die. It just about killed us all to walk by her house and know that she was awaiting the inevitable. She wasn't up for visitors, but the cards and letters kept coming. One evening, Teen Angel hollered for me to look out the window. "Oh, mama," she whispered. "Look." A busload of parishioners from a church four hours away had driven to her house to pray over her. They quietly got off the bus, circled the house and held hands in prayer. When they finished, they boarded the bus and left for the long ride home. I was impressed that their love for her was so strong they would go to such great lengths to do the only thing they knew to do for her. The hospice volunteer stayed longer and longer, and we helplessly watched from across the street as her life began to draw to a close.


I'm told she went gracefully and with confidence in her faith. In the last twenty four hours of her life, she brought in close friends and family for brief goodbyes, and she slipped away from Brother E. in the early morning hours as he sat by her side. He was devastated and broken hearted when he came to Hubby that morning to give us the news. We were broken hearted to lose her as a friend. So were many others. The funeral home was packed.


For weeks I mulled over her death, wondering why bad things happen to great people and how she could face such a grim verdict with so much courage and faith in her religion. I promised myself to remember her example if I'm ever faced with a similar sentence. But I also remind myself from time to time that I should emulate her example of how she lived and not just how she died. She was a great woman who led with a quiet strength and full heart. That is a rare and beautiful thing.

13 comments:

Amy said...

Beautiful post and tribute, Hula.

God Bless,
Amy:)

Jettie said...

OOHh my what a truly impressive post and writer you are!! Iam daily amazed how cancer is dealt with by some of the most amazing people!! I do the rely for Life this year it is June 6th I will think of her and you!!

Sayre said...

Amazing woman. She obviously had a lot to teach a lot of people just by being who she was. The busload of people who came to pray really impressed me. They never barged in, but surrounded her home with love. That says a lot about Delores.

You were lucky to know her!

Lil Mouse said...

isnt it nice to have such role models?

Jo Beaufoix said...

That was beautiful, just beautiful. Sighhh. She was obviously a very special lady.

ChrisB said...

Your story was very moving and shows that she was a remarkable lady who was greatly loved by so many.

Mama Mia said...

oh hula this post has touched my heart like you wouldn't believe. what a wonderful testimony. she lived the way we are all suppose too and affected so many didn't she?

kitten said...

Your neighbors life and death sounds so close to my aunt. She was a Pentecostal lady as well.
You wrote your post a lot better than I could ever have thou. I guess I should have wrote mine when I 1st come up with the idea and saved it for today, but I didn't and you can still see a small glimpse of my aunt.
Thanks for sharing!!!!!!
You blessed me so much!

jennifer said...

What an emotional post. She sounds like a wonderful woman and I am sorry that you lost her.

Be blessed.

Jen

Faye said...

Thank you for taking the time to share this wonderful life with all of us. It is the most moving post I've read today. How lucky you are to have been her friend.

Alison said...

your FM post is very similar to mine...thank you for sharing.

IamwhoIam said...

amazing people and a nice tribute

Pamela said...

I enjoyed reading this - and that sounds ill worded. I didn't enjoy hearing about her dying -- but rather about her living. The people came to pray around her house. What does that tell you about that woman...
oh my! Wonderful Wonderful post.