Wednesday, June 25, 2014

David Steen's Mother Passed Away

By David Steen

My dear mother.
Frances Elizabeth Fuller Steen
December 16, 1919 - June 21, 2014
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13

We now have yet another reason to look forward to that bright morning. Even so come Lord Jesus.

He then posted the following yesterday, Sunday:
Is there a good way to die?

My dear mother died yesterday. She lived for 94 and a half years. And on thinking about how she died, I can't imagine a better way to die. It was an answer to prayer really. Because for a long time, I have been praying to God, asking Him to transition my aging parents from this life to their long sleep in a gentle and dignified way as only He can. God is so good because mother's death was gentle and dignified.

So here is what happened - with some background.

For the last decade or two my folks opted to continue living in their Holly Hill home. It is the home place that they designed and built in 1962. It is where we have all called home since returning from many years of mission service in Ethiopia. It is where they have been very comfortable. But as dad lost his vision and then his mobility, and as mom lost her ability to drive, and with the Pisgah Villa and retirement facility next door, they were often tempted to sell this home place and move so they would have much less to manage in their old age. But indecision always becomes a decision and year after year they stayed here.

They simply could not have managed here on Holly Hill had it not been for Philip, my youngest brother, Geoff, and many others.

Philip lives in neighboring Madison county. Four years ago, he quit his log cabin building/cabinet making/blacksmithing jobs and focused his attention on care giving. He read and studied, asked questions, and with much learning from trial and error, he has lovingly cared for mother and daddy. For him, the day to day caring involved commuting an hour every day to fix their breakfast, keep up with their medications, getting them out for exercise and activities, grocery shopping, taking care of the home place, taking care of the ever present health care issues, cleaning up the ever present physiological accidents, preparing their evening meal and making sure that all was well before commuting back to care for his own place. Many were the times that he stayed overnight to make sure all was well.

Philip could not have done it alone. Grandson Geoff Steen also lives near Asheville. With his heart of gold, his caregiving skills, his culinary skills, and his great gifts for gentle service, Geoff has been a huge blessing to my parents assisting Philip in the day to day care, giving Philip much needed weekly respite. And Geoff's father, my younger brother James, an ER doc in Boston was frequently consulted when there were medical issues. His knowledge and expertise helped keep mother and daddy both healthy. So many have stepped in to help so that they could stay here at home during their old age. Friends, neighbors, all have helped and their demonstrations of love made the difference.

Mother was mobile to the end. Correction, she was highly mobile to the end. She was agile and always a fast walker. When Philip took them out for walks, mother was always far ahead and dad far behind moving slowly with his cane or walker, Philip hard pressed to keep them together. Mother did have down-times with her mobility. She did have periodic TIA-like episodes with loss of mobility, slurred speech, and drooping face and mental confusion. After extensive testing, neurologists called these episodes migraines rather than TIAs. Following every down time of these episodes, she would bounce back to her bright, energetic, social self again.

So it was that about two weeks ago mother had another episode. And to show that she was on the rebound, last Sabbath, after Philip put them to bed and left, the two old timers, like young kids got out of bed, dressed, and walked down their steep driveway to the neighbors to catch a ride to the church social where they had a grand time. Tuesday, Philip took them out to see the great grand kids in Madison county. Mother seemed to be bouncing back well. But Wednesday morning she didn't wake up. She continued sleeping, non-responsive, her pupils now fixed. This looked like the beginning of THE END. Hospice brought in a hospital bed which was placed in front of the picture window in her bed room. This is where mother loves to sit and view Mount Pisgah in the distance. But Wednesday she wasn't viewing. She was sleeping.

All day she slept. No change Thursday. The family started coming together on Friday. No change. No urine output. No response. Jim and Sandy flew in from Boston Friday afternoon, we drove down from MI arriving Friday evening, Claude and Donna cut short a counseling session in WV to drive in late Friday night. Lisa and Kevin arrived from Eastern Carolina Sabbath afternoon. Kind neighbors kept checking in and dropping off food.

Then at 4:45 Sabbath afternoon, God invited her to enter His gracious rest and she accepted. She just stopped breathing. No pain. No struggle. If this isn't a good way to die, I don't know what that would be. At home, with all your family around you, at peace, on a beautiful Sabbath afternoon, after 94.5 years of living an active life of humble service to others, like Jacob in Genesis 49:33, she simply gathered her feet into her bed and yielded up the ghost.

The girls dressed her in pretty clothes, fixed her hair and she looked so quiet and peaceful.

Is there a good way to die?

Thank you sweet Jesus. What a kind way to end this chapter. You are the best.


To comply with the oft-stated wishes of our parents, Claude and Elizabeth Steen, mother's body will be cremated now. Then, after dad follows her in death, we plan on having a public memorial service for the two of them together. They lived and served together as a team. They want to be remembered together.



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