In December we said good-bye to our beloved Rosemarie. She moved in with us 5 years ago with a fairly complicated medical history--including Parkinson’s Disease, Spinal Stenosis, Dementia, Depression and a history of frequent falls. After reviewing her medication regime, starting an exercise plan and initiating adapted versions of activities she had formerly enjoyed, she began to feel better, do more for herself and have fun! At a three month visit to her neurologist, she looked so improved that he asked, “Rosemarie, you look wonderful! What facility do you live in?” She looked at him and at me with a questioning face and responded, “Facility? I don’t live in a facility! Well, I share a home with people that know how to help me.” What a beautiful response.
She always loved her family of friends and we all flourished together! She taught us how to swing at golf balls and how to dress for the task--even though we were doing it in our backyard! One spring she asked why our pool wasn’t heated. I explained that it was on the property when we bought it, but the mechanicals were not in good shape. Because of this, if we bought a new pool heater we would also have to buy a new pool vacuum and probably a new pump for the filter or we would wreck the new heater and we did not have enough money for all of that. She told me to figure out how much all of that would cost because, she figured "if you can fund raise for new building projects, I can fund raise for pool equipment. This is my home too.” I figured it out, but did not plan to tell her the answer unless she remembered to ask again. She remembered. Then she demanded homemade brochures and a video to post on Facebook. Six months later, we bought the new pool mechanicals and she loved getting in the warm pool with staff, residents and friends!
One day she heard a live in staff member introduced as staff. Later she told me about it and asked how a person knew if they were staff. I said it had to do with responsibility levels and the government had something to say about it too. She said, “The government has something to say about everything. I guess that means I am staff too then.” I left it at that.
Although it took a few months after moving in, she became a major cheer-leader for getting hesitant residents involved in activities, exercise classes and party planning! She became more flexible than most of the staff and could sometimes be found on an exercise mat stretching on the floor in her room. At first we were terrified thinking she had fallen. But she showed us how she got on and off the floor safely! Rosemarie made all of us help with the crossword puzzles and word games in the newspaper--everyday. She did have dementia and she could never remember what word we were working on or where to write it. Her joy was in all of us working together on it and having a completed puzzle to look at. Even though she is gone now, we still feel like we are supposed to work on them!
Rosemarie was also the inspiration behind our Oktoberfest Polka party! She loved polka and while she was strong enough we choreographed a Walker Polka Mommas dance. In time her balance was not even good enough for that so we kind of held her up and danced with her. And she loved it.
Rosemarie raised a kindred spirit in her daughter Lisa. During the 5 years Rosemarie was with us, Lisa took her on convertible rides to apple orchards, music and food! Especially for Culver's ice cream. Their pinnacle was a trip to CA where Lisa rented the bike and burley pictured below (far right). Rosemarie folded herself into the burley cart and Lisa took her for a ride by the water! Serious high five to them!
They visited with Lisa's daughter Theresa and the dessert where Rosemarie wants her ashes spread with her husband's. When Rosemarie looked at pictures of her younger self hiking in the desert with Ralph she said, "Wow, those were the days!"
When it became clear to Rosemarie that she was going to die, she told me one night that she was kind of nervous--because she didn’t know what heaven would be like. I told her that since none of us knew I would pray for God to give her some peace and joy about it. She said, “Sounds good.” At three in the morning she rang her bell for help. I went into her room and she said she needed to use the bathroom and then very matter of fact asked, “Are we in heaven or on earth?” I told her earth. She said, “OK, then I went for a visit and came back.” I asked what it was like. She calmly stated, “It was so beautiful. There was the most beautiful green grass on rolling hills! And so many fun dogs and I just wanted to roll and roll in the grass with the little black and white dog! And there were young people everywhere. And my body was so strong! I think I can walk now.” I reminded her she was back on earth so we would need to test that out. She stood with my help and said, “Oh, I guess not.” I told her I thought she would get the strong one back when she returned. She said, “I bet that’s right.” Then added, “Oh, I saw my Mother!” I asked how she was and Rosemarie said, “She was so happy.” And Rosemarie was never worried about heaven again.
However, she told me a couple of nights later, “I’m not afraid about heaven now, but I don’t want to leave all of you.” I told her we would miss her but that only bodies die, friendships live on in our hearts forever.” And in her animated way she smiled and exclaimed, “That’s right! Friendships don’t die!”
Her last house party was in December. She attended in a reclining wheelchair and after the band played “Pistol Packin’ Momma” for her, she later requested, “You are my Sunshine” and directed it and blew kisses on every verse. This week we sang that song for her as her body left the home we shared for 5 years. Only our eyes and cheeks were wet this time. My husband, Rick wrote a special verse to be sung for her at the end:
The other night dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamt you flew to Jesus' arms
And you were riding on wild horses
Far away from any harms
Rosemaire flourished at Hope & A Future and we did with her! We will miss her even though she lives on in our hearts!
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Written by members of the Hope & a Future community including residents, volunteers, and staff.