by Patricia Roop Hollinger
“We have to go down to Bridgewater tomorrow,” I told my husband on Saturday, April 1st.
This was not an April Fool’s joke. You see, my 103 year old mother’s health had been declining rapidly the past few weeks. I felt no urgency to be by her side as I knew that my nieces were with her day and night and I had visited her just weeks prior. During that visit she had enjoyed listening to me play some of her favorite hymns on the piano. Her mind was sharp. Her 96-year-old male friend sang a love song for her.
After her husband of 69 years died in 2001 she reluctantly left their home place to live in a Retirement Village in Bridgewater, Virginia. Oh, how she missed gardening, picking up sticks on the wood lot, and making grape juice from her grape arbor. This grape juice was served at the reenactment of the Last Supper that was held in the Church of the Brethren where she and my father had served as deacons.
A wink at Roger during a church service in her youth is how she met my Dad. This was a brazen move for a woman of that era. After several years of courting by horse and buggy they married in 1932. Both had been raised on farms so it was no surprise that they took up this way of life; a way of life that all three of their daughters remember with fondness despite recalling the odors that wafted from the barn.
After World War II my parents donated their farm as the gathering place for what was known then as Heifer Project. From 1944 to 1948, 3,600 head of heifers lived on our farm before being shipped to war-torn Europe. This is now known as Heifer International, and is located in Little Rock, Arkansas. Mom served meals to the men that brought heifers to our farm all hours of the day or night. Guests never left her home with hunger pangs.
Even though her own college education came to an abrupt end with the depression she made sure that her children and grandchildren had reading material. That time and money was spent for piano lessons and activities related to 4-H. Each daughter and grandchild has their own unique memory of time spent with her. I marvel upon reflection how she made that time in light of all being a farmer’s wife entailed.
When we arrived at her room on Sunday, April 2nd her breathing was labored. I stroked her hands and face as I softly told her it was okay for her to go meet Roger, her daughter Elaine and grandson Michael. Tears welled up in my eyes. Her labored breathing was more than I could bear. Two of her grandchildren had been by her side day and night for the past week. We hugged and cried.
The call came the following morning that she had died–news that brought both sadness and relief.
Patricia Roop Hollinger is a retired Pastoral Counselor/Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor after having served for twenty-three years in a mental health setting. She and her husband, who dated in their youth, married in 2010. They reside in a retirement community with their cat, Spunky. Pat enjoys reading and writing.