Many of you may know that for the past several months I have been helping out a friend that was unable to drive due to the effects of several brain tumors. Once a week I would pick up Maraileen at 8:45am and drive her to work in Richfield where she would cook a lunch time meal for the Lezamiz family. The family had come to know and love her when she showed great compassion for their father as he was dying. You see, she was his hospice nurse, but the tumors had put an end to her career so the family found a way to keep her close. By having her cook lunch while they worked there at the dairy tending the cows, they could get more done and she could visit with their mother who was getting on in years. It was a great plan. They grew to be great friends.
So how was I so fortunate to get involved? I had decided to take a leave of absence from teaching and do service work in the community. Some friends were in town and we went to visit Peter, who is the chaplain for the Fire Department, and his wife Maraileen. A few months previous Maraileen had gone through a fifth brain surgery which had affected her eyesight and she was unable to drive. It was obvious she was really missing work. I told her I would be glad to drive her out once a week since I would no longer be working. I didn't really know her and she said she would think about it. About two weeks later she called and introduced herself and said "Remember when you said you would drive me to work once a week?" I said, "Absolutely!" She gave a big sigh and said, "Oh I love how you said Absolutely I was expecting you to say Oh did I say that or something." And she gave her little giggle. We arranged a day and time and headed to Richfield as planned.
She was a very expressive and friendly person, chatting the whole time. I found out a lot about her. She had an identical twin sister that she loved and spoke of so often. She shared about her health, growing up, marrying, having children, divorcing her first husband and meeting Peter. Each week she would tell me all about what went on since we last were together and she spoke about how much it meant to her to be able to go to the farm, which she loved, and help someone rather than others always helping her. It felt so good to be able to help her feel she had a purpose.
I have to say I enjoyed every minute that I spent with Maraileen and the Lezamiz family. It was always a time for love and laughter, and Maraileen was usually the first to laugh. She laughed with such gusto that her body would jiggle and she would lose her breath. Her laugh made me laugh. She had a way of talking with her hands, using facial and vocal expressions as she told her stories.
As the months went on it was clear that Maraileen was having a hard time, with her memory, and her abilities, and she was forgeting to take her meds. She went through some hard times when her beloved dog had to be put down, but was so pleasantly surprised when Peter suggested they get another dog. Lissi was a great gift to her. Though she was a puppy, she knew what Maraileen could and could not handle. Every morning while Maraileen would read from the Bible, Lissi would sit and wait patiently for her time. She gave Maraileen a reason to get up each day and kept her company while Peter was at work.
The time came when I had to do the grocery shopping and make sure we had everything we needed to head to the farm. I even started helping out in the kitchen, chopping the vegetables and doing what I could to help but not ruin anything. She would joke that I was going to become a good cook some day, and I did make sure that I copied some of her recipes for some day down the road.
Maraileen talked many times about not ever having another surgery. It was hard for everyone to hear, but she was adamant about not going through that again and said she was ready to go whenever the Lord saw fit. She had such a matter of fact way of talking about it, an acceptance, which is understandable coming from someone who had been through so much and been in such pain. But yet it came so fast.
For two weeks I stopped in and Maraileen was not ready or able to go to work. She was having a hard time walking and sweet Peter had gotten her a walker which boosted her confidence and she felt sure the next week we could go. I told her I would bring all ingredients to the table and she could sit and show me what to do. That day did not come.
A week later I got a call from Lynda Lezamiz saying that things had gotten worse. Sunday Maraileen could not get out of bed, a visit to the hospital showed growth of another tumor and water on the brain. Peter had needed to put Maraileen in hospice care. The facility was really more like a HOME and there were only 2 patients in the house. As I pulled up to the house in the country surrounded by trees, there was a deer standing in the spot where I needed to park, and I knew this was the best place for her. Lynda and I were able to get her out of bed and outside to enjoy the sun, breeze and wildlife. It was a nice visit and we talked about it being a very peaceful place, the country home she always wanted.
I went back the next day and she looked good, she had been given a shower and was nice and clean. Something that she had not been able to do for herself the past couple weeks. We watched a little TV and visited a bit. She told me that she finally did feel like she had been a good nurse. That maybe she had made a difference in some lives. Now she could remember that people requested her as a nurse and felt like they were loved. So I left her feeling confident that she was at peace with her life.
I did not see her again until Monday and I was not expecting what was happening. She had not really eaten much, had slept most of the day, and was really unable to speak. Her sister called but she could not put sentences together, maybe just a word here and there. She looked uncomfortable and in pain but I could not make out what she was saying. I told her to wiggle her fingers if she was in pain, and she did. The nurse gave her something for the pain. I spent most of the day just talking to her because I knew she could hear me even if she was not responding. Not long after that I said, "Maraileen it's Monday. Today is cooking and cleaning day at my house and I made your enchiladas for Wayne at lunch time and he liked them." Clear as a bell she said, "WONDERFUL!" It was the last thing she said to me, and probably one of the last things she said. She passed away at 8pm Wednesday June 15th. She was only 52 years old.
In pain no more, whole again...and most importantly.... with her loving Heavenly Father:)