Thursday, February 26, 2009

The "Other" Becky ...Chapter 1

I may have to break this into "chapters"...cause I can't tell it short. Just so you know...

Today seems to be the day for me to tell you a bit about the "other" Becky in our lives. Why today? Because today marks her 66th birthday!! More than likely, it will be the last she will celebrate here with us (...and we've been saying that for several years!). Yes, knowing this makes me a bit sad, but I also rejoice that God has seen fit to bless our family so richly over the past 5 years or so, with really getting to know such a lovely lady...and I don't use "lovely" lightly! She's truly lovely inside and out!

Mrs. Becky (as we call her) has qualified for Hospice care for 4 or 5 years!!! Do you know what that means? To qualify for Hospice, the doctor has to certify you have 6 - 12 months to live. Each year you have to be re-certified. So despite her doctors' best guesses, she's been living the last 6 months of her earthly life for nearly 5 years! Anybody who has known her very long is not surprised.... She is an amazing woman! She has the determination of a steam locomotive! Just try getting in her way!

You see, Mrs. Becky has MSA or Multiple Systems Atrophy. This disease is in the Parkinson's family without the shakes. Actually, the disease attacks all the systems of your body in a degenerative fashion. She went from walking, to using a walker, to using a scooter, to a wheelchair and now is bedridden. Even though she is bedridden, it took this disease a long time to get her down that far!

When she could still walk, she would be walking along and then would just stop...we used to say her transmission would shift into neutral until she could get her brain to shift things back into drive. Sometimes that was a second or two...sometimes lonnnnngggg minutes. Can you imagine not being able to hold your eyelids open...not because you're sleepy, but because the lids won't open on their own? You have to reach up and hold your eyelid up if you want to see something. Can you imagine reaching up to scratch your nose with your hand and having your arm get stuck in that position and not be able to move your hand away until your brain shifts back into gear?

What about your tongue? Try talking or chewing without moving your tongue...because it gets stuck in one position, too! Over time, more and more of her "systems" have quit working properly. Sometimes things work, sometimes they just shift to neutral for a few minutes or even an hour or more. (Last week she told me she was having trouble keeping her mouth shut. We laughed together when I told her I had the very same problem ---wayyyy too often!) But that's just her physical body. Her mind is as sharp as ever and her heart continues to shine through.

I met Mrs. Becky for the first time over the telephone about 8 years ago. She called as part of our church's outreach program. We had visited the church, and she was the one who got our card to contact us. We hit it off immediately--talked for nearly an hour on the phone! She lived right up the road from us and was a horse nut just like our Bex. She made it a point to speak to me pretty much each Sunday thereafter. Shortly after we joined the church, she was struck with this terrible disease and it started taking her down. Over the next 3 years, we would see each other at church, but we were just acquaintances.

Then about 5 years ago, I heard through the Sunday School grapevine that she needed a bit of help at home and ...long-story shorter...since my girls were home schoolers and I wanted to help them learn about serving others, I started taking them to Mrs. Becky's house every Wednesday to help her. Bex was 13 and K was 15. Mrs. Becky and Bex hit it off right away being "horse" people...sharing their names didn't hurt either! Mrs. Becky fell in love with K right away because she recognized her hurting heart and knew she needed lots of unconditional love. K soaked it up!!!

The first couple of Wednesday's, I stayed and helped...but then it became VERY clear that she liked having the girls WITHOUT me! This was great for me! It gave me a free day to run errands, meet friends for lunch or whatever and it gave Mrs. Becky two teenagers she could boss around and share her life lessons with. It was a wonderful arrangement for us both. My girls would do the "little" things for her that she couldn't do for herself anymore...water her plants, brush the dog, sweep the porch, decorate for holidays, weed the flower beds, help her go through boxes, clean closets, reorganize drawers, etc. They LOVED their Wednesday's at Mrs. Becky's. Sometimes she worked them hard, some days they played. The playing might involve makeup, movies, manicures or any number of other "fun" activities. She basically adopted them as her grandchildren. I liked the "grandmother" part because it gave Bex a chance to have a "real" grandmother relationship like I did growing up! Bex continues to spend each Wednesday with Mrs. Becky doing simple chores. They still have fun...just different now that Mrs. Becky can't supervise as closely as she once did.

The picture on the right is from May 2007's Mother-Daughter Tea at our church.

I wasn't privileged to know Mrs. Becky in her younger days like so many of her old friends in our church. I've heard a LOT of stories--not all of them flattering! Although, she has been greatly loved --she apparently was a very outspoken, bossy, determined, perfectionist (and still is!) that probably drove a lot of her friends God has mellowed (and perfected) her into one of the kindest, sweetest, most thoughtful, giving, loving, and greatest champions for Christ I've ever known. Her ministry now is praying for folks and witnessing to her un-saved caregivers. She has taught me and my girls sooooo much over the past years. Although, each day it seems harder to watch her fade, I can't imagine having missed out on such a blessing from the Lord.

Someone commented on my "Cynthia" post saying that I had too many wonderful friends. Well, we all know we can NEVER have too many wonderful friends! I think God has seen fit to bless me with some really extraordinary Christian role models because He took my mom when I was so young. He knew I needed these women in my life to teach me those special things that she didn't have the opportunity to teach. Kind of like the old saying "When God closes a door, He opens a window." He has let me look through some AMAZING windows!

More tomorrow....with pictures!

4 Click here to Comment!:

Debbie @ Cheaper by the Bakers Dozen said...

I love your posts about your friends. ANd I'm encouraged when I hear you describe Mrs. Becky as mellowing in her older years - Maybe it will happen to me! ....If I ever get older...

I feel better about not stopping by as often when I realize you went 20 days without blogging.
Work is putting a damper on your life, isn't it? :)

Laura said...

Sweet post. I'm going to pass it along to some others I know who care for her.

Pat said...

Aw ... you did a great job describing the disease and it's affects ... helping ups sympathize even more with Mrs. Becky's problems. You've been a great friend to her and I'm sure she's benefited as much from knowing you as you have knowing her!

Kelley said...

Yes, it's great to see and be reminded how God will continue to fashion us and mold us in new ways. What a great blessing for your girls to be able to serve in that way! That is awesome...