Mary was a lady of very small stature, barely four feet tall. Her home was accordingly furnished to accommodate her stature, with low counters, low chairs, tables, and couches. Yet when her father, a man over six feet tall became ill, she insisted he move in with her. She had one room in her home refurnished to accommodate his stature. Her father, Mr. Lewis, was receiving hospice care and was thrilled to move in with his daughter. He said, “She might be little, but she’s a giant when it comes to caring for me.”
As a volunteer I was requested to provide respite care for Mr. Lewis so Mary could run errands and get some shopping done. With the assistance of hospice CNAs, Mr. Lewis was always bathed, dressed, and sitting in his wheelchair when I arrived. This gracious gentleman loved to sit outside and enjoy the beauty of Mary’s back yard. The yard was beautifully landscaped and the shrubs and flowers were growing into full bloom that particular spring time. First, the crocuses burst to life – yellow, white, and purple. Not to be outdone, the daffodils and tulips followed. Then it was the turn of the shrubs. It seemed like every time I visited another shrub was ablaze in color.
I would wheel Mr. Lewis out onto the stone deck at the back of the home and we would sit for hours, watching butterflies flit from flower to flower and the hummingbirds dart back and forth to the feeders. We sat and listened to the birds singing, everything from the gentle cooing of the mourning doves, the delightful chirping of the chickadees and the harsh calls of the crows high up in the trees. Mr. Lewis was so proud of his daughter. He said, “You know, she did most of the work in the yard herself. She did the landscaping and all the plantings.”
Mary had set up an ingenious bird feeder system that she raised up and down by a pulley system. The birds enjoyed the array of food sources immensely.
Mr. Lewis, who was a veteran of WWII, shared stories of his exploits in the Pacific Theater. He had seen a great deal of action and had received a number of citations for his service to our country. Initially, as seems so typical of those who fought in the various wars, he seemed reluctant to talk about his time in the service. As time progressed and I was willing to just sit quietly and listen, he shared more and more. His story, like so many other stories I have had the privilege of hearing, was remarkable.
Mr. Lewis’s health declined further and by midsummer he was no longer able to get out of bed. I would sit at his bedside and read the paper to him. He slipped into a coma and died in the presence of his beloved daughter, a little person, but a giant caregiver.
--by Steven B., volunteer