THE LAST DINNER TABLE

her husband had a feeding tube the last ten years of his life

cancer of the larynx took away from him the ability to speak or eat

and tube feeding kept him going

***

the patient said she looked back on the years before cancer came

and remembered how

she was always busy being a wife and a mother

a farmer husband and five children kept her busy in the kitchen

and they always enjoyed their fellowship around the table

***

the day came when she set a full dinner table as she always had done

an abundance of riches

fried chicken and mashed potatoes

butterbeans and squash

sliced tomatoes and spring onions

bread-and-butter pickles

cornbread and sweet tea

chocolate cake and pecan pie

***

her husband walked into the kitchen and saw the spread

he knew he could not enjoy

and mouthed these words:

I could eat every bite of this

***

the patient said

her heart broke

and

that was the last time she laid out food as a spread

*****

How to say this without sounding tactless? This patient appeared to be just an ordinary elderly woman…small-boned, grizzled short hair, no makeup, plain of dress, quiet of demeanor. You’d see her sort pushing the buggy in the grocery store and then getting into a serviceable, old four-door car.

So what was special about this woman? Well, you’d just have to get to know her, but it didn’t take long being around her to become enamored with her spirit.

She was not particularly “depressed” at being in the hospital…she just accepted it as a part of life that the human body will fail us at times.

She had a dry wit about her that peeked out, once you got to know her. She didn’t let being in her early nineties take away her love of seeing a little humor in everyday life situations.

She had a love for her family, and they for her. Her children and in-laws were faithful “spend-the-nighters” in the hospital room and stayed during the long days also.

She had lived a plain, hard-working life as a farmer’s wife and mother of five children. What others might see as drudgery, she saw as blessings. Read Proverbs 31:10-31.

She had a delicacy of spirit and concern for others that we would all do well to emulate. Imagine all the joy she had for all those years preparing those delicious meals with vegetables from her own garden, laying it all out in all its abundance for her family to enjoy, and then realizing the sadness it caused her husband…that he could not eat it. And just like that, she quit doing what had been such a part of family life for so many years…the pleasure of seeing a beautiful home-cooked meal all laid out in all its glory.

It’s been over five years since the patient left the hospital, and I’ve wondered about her often.

My wonders were answered several months ago. Her obituary expressed the characteristics mentioned above and also stated something I didn’t know…that she had spent the last two years of her life in a nursing home where, the obituary declared, “she made many friends”. What an example of a pleasant attitude and good life until the very end at almost 100 years of age!!

This “ordinary elderly woman” was, in fact, extraordinary. She blessed us, and we loved her.

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Matthew 25:21