Three years ago we celebrated big with an open house, huge cake and people she'd shown hospitality and love to her whole life coming and going for hours to love on her. It was a wonderful day of celebration at the same time sad hung heavy because we knew the next day our lives would change and Alzheimer's would dictate next steps, not us.
As the evening turned to night, she and her three daughters-in-law danced in the kitchen while Billy Currington's, Like my Dog played on the CD player. We made some memories.
It was easy to make memories with her. She believed in 'cepting people just like they are and if she thought a nasty thought about you she didn't share it. She taught me a lot about life. Important things like how to cream peas and Lima beans and get the sauce just right. Things like adding sugar to everything makes it better and you don't have to tell anybody it's in there. Things like washing win-ders isn't done with Windex alone. Bleach can be a perfume and apparently makes hands soft as silk. Oh, how I loved her hands. She taught me how to hang Christmas cards and the 100 ways to use old pantyhose.
She taught me that hours spent in the yard, pulling weeds, plucking browned blooms and watching frogs play was a type of worship and watching a hummingbird fly is more entertaining than TV. But, that didn't mean you had to turn the TV off- we solved the world's problems watching Oprah and Dr. Phil.
She was more resourceful than anyone I've ever known, wasted nothing and could create a soup-to-nuts meal with hardly anything- always disclaiming it with "it ain't much, but make it out the best you can" the whole time you were convinced she had planned and shopped for days. She'd refuse to use the brand new dishwasher and stand at that kitchen sink washing and drying all those dishes the old fashioned way.
She introduced me to her "little boutique" and taught me how to really find a bargain. Oh, the hours and hours we spent on Saturday's going from one thrift store to another before finishing the day up with grocery shopping. We'd fill the trunk with mine and hers, we'd tie mine up so they wouldn't spill and she'd pile hers on top of each other and let them fly wherever. Including her eggs and bread. She didn't care- it tasted the same whether it was smashed up or not. I worried about so much more than she did.
And when she asked I better be "fine" or she'd fuss for me to tell her what was wrong and having a plan to fix it. She'd go on and on with each of us, telling us we worked harder than anyone she knew- never taking credit for her own hard work or successes.
Rex and I walked into her room one last time Thursday night. I took her hand and told her we were there. We told her again that we loved her and then I told her it was time to dance- in heaven with Jesus. And she took a deep breath- and did.
And in that moment, 93 years felt like 93 minutes and it was over too fast.
But as much as we adore her, none of us would wish her another second here with Alzheimer's. It's a terrible, ugly disease. But now she's with Jesus, she's healed and she remembers. Praise the Lord!
We met as a family Friday afternoon to remember and share her life - what a joy to sit with four generations in the same room- enjoying each other and spitting out memories that we shared together. She was the same with all of us. She was, as Keith put it so perfectly "our soft place to land."
Who is she?
She is Iris Virginia May Powell Allen.
She is my husband's mother, my children's grandmother, my friend.
Thanks Iris for accepting me as I am and never trying to change me. For being the best mother-in-law ever, and for teaching me so much about loving Allen men- what a legacy you left.
I'll think of you every time I get my hands dirty in the yard, pour bleach, say I'm fine, see a green bathtub, eat a yeast roll- the list is endless.
Most of all, thanks for being our soft place to land.
We sure do love you!