Tag Archives: Falling

My Sweet Mama

We take turns, sitting by her bed.  I trace the lines and think about the face that was so familiar to my young life. I never knew that she was considered a very beautiful woman until I was a teenager.  She was my Mama, and it didn’t matter what she looked like.

She gave me swing rides on busy mornings, sat on the steps and played dolly with me when I had no one to play with.  She tried to keep me neat and clean, but I had a penchant for dirt and for getting rips in my dresses.  I remember the time when I heard her say to Daddy one evening, “I think Mary Ann is finally growing up.  She isn’t ripping her dresses every day at school!”

She worked so hard.  There was a man she loved and a farm that they were working together, and she did anything that Mark Yoder, Sr. asked her to do.  She did anything that she thought would help him even at great cost to herself and her comfort.  She helped with the milking, fed chickens, gathered eggs, loaded and hauled one hundred pound burlap sacks of feed onto the wheelbarrow, as many as four and five at a time, and pushed them to the distant chicken house, emptied them into the feed cart and filled the hanging tube feeders down through the long house.  I remember when we got feed bins at the end of that house and how wonderful it was to pull that cart under the chute and watch the feed pour into the cart.  It seemed like luxury to her.

She did all that work outside and then came in and cooked for her family.  Three meals a day.  Every single day.  And Daddy liked real food, so she didn’t very often decide to “just slip by.”  She canned peaches and pears and applesauce and tomato juice and pickles and sometimes meat.  She froze huge quantities of corn, Delaware Lima Beans, and strawberry jam.  She began baking our own bread around the time I reached adolescence and the memories of the sight of those beautiful loaves and the smell of the farm kitchen inspire me still.  The smell of homemade bread still says “home” to me like no other smell.

She loved to sing, and she had a lovely soprano voice.  It was the time in the Mennonite church when forming a singing group was popular, and many people would sing in a specialized, privately arranged group.  She sang in a women’s sextet for a number of years, and they were good.  The ladies in that group had names that would be recognized in many communities.  Mama’s sister in law, Dottie Embleton Yoder, Dottie’s sister Tootie Embleton Miller Clegg, Rachel Swartzentruber Schlabach, Rachel’s sister, Vida Jane Swartzentruber Huber and  Maxine Mast Eash (along with Mama, Alene Wert Yoder) are the six that would have sung together the longest.  They were good!  Sometimes they would practice at our house, and we would need to go to bed early. What an incredible privilege to grow up hearing my Mama’s voice, singing in an a capella group in the living room below my room as I drifted off to sleep.

Beauty, music, good food, hard work.  And so much more.  All now brought to a halt by life and aging and this last insidious battle that she is fighting.  A fall.  A broken leg.  Surgery.  Pneumonia.  A heart attack.  And now an infection that has been hard to trace.  She is totally dependent for everything she needs.  The road ahead looks frightening and difficult.  She is 86 years old.  Often dogged by weariness in her life, she is even more exhausted and she struggles to breathe as her lungs fill more and more with fluid and the ravages of pneumonia.  The doctors and the nurses are so kind, and they jump to do what they can for her.  They are guarded in their prognosis.

For the first time in her life, she is talking about wanting to go home to Heaven.  She doesn’t want to leave the people who love her, and she really does care about the little ones who know and love her and want her to stay here.  But the tug of the eternal is all over her face and the weariness holds us at bay because she is too tired to really converse.

And so we, (I and my siblings and in laws and the next generation) sit by her bed.  We hold conferences with the (many) doctors and each other.  We adjust the pillow that gets so hot around her neck, give her sips of ice water, and rub her feet.  We call the nurse when the breathing gets so short she gets frantic and we call the nurse when she has other needs that we cannot meet.  We pray for her, speak to her of Heaven and those who are already there.  I print out pictures for her wall of happier times and I try to bring up the good, good memories of the many, many years we’ve shared together.

The last year has been especially difficult for her — and us.  She has felt her independence slipping away and she has battled fiercely against anything, ANYTHING, that she deemed an inroad on her life the way she knew it.  Oftentimes, that came out very differently than the Mama we’ve known, and it’s been difficult to discern what is actually best for her.  As a family, we’ve known that this injurious fall was probably what would happen, someday.  We hoped that it wouldn’t.  We knew the risks and wanted something different for her, but when all was said and done, we decided to allow Mama to decide on anything that she could.  And this is one battle that she won, by virtue only of being THE MAMA.

But now it seems as if the fight is gone.  To her, Heaven looks a whole lot better than rehab. How I wish it were possible to just bring her home to her house, her bird, her familiar kitchen.  But, at least for now, that isn’t possible.  We have hard decisions to make, for sure, and no solution is perfect.  The one thing I am so immensely grateful for is that the six adult children of Mark and Alene Yoder are solidly together in the decisions already made.  As Mama’s power of attorney, I’ve been blessed with the kind of support that many, many people only dream about.  It has made everything so much easier. How very much I love my three brothers and two sisters and their generous spouses.

And we will keep watch and do what we can for her, pleading for creature comforts, praying for spiritual comfort and rest.  She has been such a good Mama.  We’ve been blessed far beyond what we deserve, and this upheaval, though overwhelming, is not without the grace of our Heavenly Father and Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He is neither surprised nor perplexed by the happenings of these last ten days.  And He has been gracious in His provision, tender in His care, and present with us, His children.

My heart gives grateful praise.


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Oh, No! Not again!

It was bed changing morning at Shady Acres.  Saturday.  It was also the morning that Certain Man, Middle Daughter, Only Granddaughter, and Certain Man’s Wife were planning to get into Certain Man’s pick up, and go to Ohio for the adoption hearings for grandsons;  Simon, Liam and Frankie.

Now we had been planning for this journey for a long time in general terms, but ever since the end of the July, it has been specific:  September 8th @ 9am.  Of course, this is the week when the weather had been very warm on Delmarva and our chickens will be five weeks old by the time when we get back, so Certain Man was concerned about their well-being.  I meandered through the last few weeks with some specific goals in mind that I wanted to accomplish before we had go leave.  It took me a while to connect that nobody accomplishes much while meandering, so I kinda tried to get it in gear before it was too late.  And I pretty much got the major projects finished up and when morning arrived, all that was left was to finish up the packing.  We had even gotten to bed at a reasonable time.

The morning was an immediate flurry of things getting done.  Only Granddaughter had spent the night and she was up early enough that I was able to get an early start.  The beds got stripped and remade, morning meds given, several loads of laundry sorted and the washing machine was purring away.  I had Cecilia on the potty and was ready to give her her shower when I needed to use the potty that she was sitting on.  That was fine, since she was ready for her shower, so I started the water in her shower and got it regulated.

Then I remembered something.  It was Saturday morning.  Friday night, Nettie always cleans her bathroom, using copious amounts of cleaner.  It is not unusual for her to use half of a large can of bathroom cleaner to accomplish this task.  A great percentage of it is used in her shower.  This makes for very, very slippery conditions in the shower.  Even with the mat in place, when Cecilia steps into the shower, even the mat will slip like it is on ice.  This is especially so if no one tamps the mat down into place, making sure that the suction cups are engaged.  However, even when it has been secured, sometimes the rubber mat still slips, at least until someone picks it up, rinses under it thoroughly and then re-tamps it down securely.

So herein was the dilemma:  I was really in a hurry to get Cecilia into the shower so that I could use the porcelain convenience.  I hurriedly tamped the mat down with my heavy foot and then actually stepped onto the edge of the mat, hoping it was firmly in place.

What happened next happened so fast that I didn’t have time to think.  I was holding the grab bar with my right hand, but both feet went sliding out from under me in one blinding, unbelievable cataclysmic split second.  I didn’t even have time to register what had happened when I landed outside of the shower, on one dreadfully sickeningly solid left sided bottom thump.  It felt like an electric current jolted through my lower back and my first thought was to make sure my legs worked.  They did.  I hauled myself up and was grateful to note that, not only had I NOT wet myself, I no longer needed to use the potty.

I stood outside the shower with a thousand emotions crashing over my heart.  We were only hours away from leaving on an important, milestone marking trip.  I knew that whatever had happened could have some implications as to the many miles we needed to travel.  I don’t travel very comfortably under the best circumstances, but this weekend was especially a challenge already.  Our Silver Chariot had developed serious issues and was in the shop, being repaired, thankfully under warranty, but still out of commission.  We were planning to take Certain Man’s pick-up, but many of the amenities of the newer vehicle were glaringly lacking. The biggest concern was space to stretch out if I needed to.

Oh, boy!

I needed to get Cecilia showered.  I picked up the mat from the bottom of the shower and rinsed it thoroughly.  I washed the floor under the mat until it was no longer slippery to my touch, and put the mat back down firmly, making sure the suction cups were not going to move.  Bending over was clearly a problem, but it seemed like it was not as bad as I thought it would be.   I got Cecilia into the shower and washed her.  As I washed, I started praying while the water ran down and anxiety plied its nasty trade.

“Oh, Lord Jesus.  This is no surprise to you, and I bring it before you.  Could you please use this for my good?  Could you somehow work what has happened to the betterment of traveling today instead of complicating things?  Please give me wisdom and endurance and help me to know what is best to do.  Above all else , if there is something really seriously wrong, could you please make that very plain before we leave?”

I finished the shower, aware that both of my feet were experiencing a strange sensation– that of being “almost half-way” asleep.  My toes were tingling in a strange way, and there was definitely some kind of trauma to my lower back.  But it didn’t hurt when I sat down, and it didn’t hurt too much when I stood up.  But getting from sitting to standing, and from standing to sitting was a reminder that something had happened.  And I was not moving as quickly as before.

I decided not to tell my family.  If I could get ready to go and not tell them, I was probably okay to go.  I truly lumbered through the rest of the morning, calling upon Middle Daughter for some assistance.  She helped incredibly much without asking questions.  Sometimes I would go and hide in another room to try to stretch things out and to relieve that ongoing tingling in my toes.  How was I ever going to make and eight hour pick-up ride?

I decided to tell my family.  I went out and started a conversation that I could “lead gently into” the account of the fall, but it never would develop easily.  I decided to not tell them.

We finished packing, got the caregiver for the ladies informed and we were on our way.  I settled into my seat and suddenly realized that, somewhere along the way, my toes had stopped tingling.  That gave me renewed courage and excitement for the miles ahead.  We had a book on CD and we listened to James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small as the miles pleasantly passed.  I was increasingly aware that I had almost no distress or pain.  Whenever we stopped, it was a little hard to walk normally and it was pretty hard to get in and out of the vehicle, but I began to believe that the pick-up was probably the best vehicle for me for this trip.  Yet another provision for me in spite of  all my clumsy misadventures.

And so we came safely to Ohio.  Somewhere on the PA turnpike, I told my family about the fall and how grateful I was that it seemed things were going so well.  Middle Daughter was concerned.  Certain Man was highly indignant that I hadn’t said anything before we left.  However, I was glad that there was no turning back at that point.  It sounded like he would have probably insisted that we delay departure.

And everything truly is okay.  I’m pretty sore, and it still doesn’t go very well to go from standing to sitting and sitting to standing, and my right arm appears to have experienced some sort of wrenching.  But all in all, it is surprisingly insignificant.  I was able to walk a half a mile today, and for the most part, things are good.

The best part is that we are all together at Raph and Gina’s house:

Adoption weekend 003 Adoption weekend 005

Adoption weekend 008

My heart gives grateful praise.


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