Caregiver Mary Barrass writes an inspirational story of unconditional love. After she lost her husband and son, Mary felt such a deep void, she invited recently widowed Evelyn to live with her. She began referring to her new friend as “Mom.”
My name is Mary. I am a friend of Donald and Evelyn Daniel.
I met this wonderful couple during Easter dinner at a mutual friend’s home in 1997. This is significant in that my only son, Mark, was killed on June 8, 1996. Mark had left behind the joy of my life, my two-year-old grandson Micael.
At our first meeting, I remember Donald as a frail old man who had suffered a stroke and had difficulty with speech and getting around. Micael was a sad little boy who had lost his daddy and did not understand why. My husband and I explained to Donald and Evelyn that Micael did not talk much and certainly would not acknowledge any attention given on their part.
We finished dinner and helped Donald to the sofa to watch TV while we chatted over coffee at the table. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I am aware of Micael. My eyes are drawn to him constantly. I noticed Micael place his hand on Donald’s knee and then gently lean against his leg. As Donald watched this little one, the sweetest smile spread across Donald’s face and a twinkle appeared in his eye. They started to chat about this and that, and before I knew it, Micael had brought out every toy he owned for Donald’s inspection and approval.
I thought, WOW, none of our overwhelming love for Micael had reached him, but Donald’s warmth, intelligence, and understanding had. Even in his weakened state, this wonderful soul knew instinctively what to say and do for this precious child. It was then and there that I fell in love with the Daniels.
The Grief-Stricken Telephone Call
We saw each other only two more times before I received a call from a grief-stricken Evelyn. Her precious love had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She does not remember, but we had many late night telephone conversations. By this time, I had lost my beloved husband of twenty-five years. He followed our son to the grave. He could not bear to live without him.
And then, Donald Daniel passed away. Evelyn called to invite me to his memorial service. It was a beautiful service that celebrated Donald’s life. As I sat listening to “Evelyn’s kids” talk about “Papa,” I wished that I could have known him better.
After the service, I kept in touch with Evelyn, stopping by on my way home from work. I watched with great alarm as enormous grief drained her life away.
Prayed for Guidance
I prayed for guidance and wisdom to find a way to help Evelyn. All I could do was to sit and listen.
Not long after, Evelyn asked if she could come and live with me.
I knew then that my prayers had been answered.
Mary S. Barrass
UPDATES: A decade after Mary invited Evelyn to live with her, Evelyn’s health deteriorated so much that she needed continual care. Not being able to walk alone safely and with dementia cursing her mind as it did her late husband’s, Evelyn relied increasingly on Mary to be her full-time caregiver–an impossible role since Mary worked full time ninety minutes away.
Worrying constantly, even after hiring independent in-home caregivers (who took advantage of “Mom”), Mary tried board and care. Evelyn grew afraid and became uncooperative. Mary returned her home, but as dementia took an even greater stronghold over Evelyn, Mary’s health suffered as she worried and feared the worst.
Eventually, Mary found a residential care home with four other women where Evelyn receives full-time care by two full-time live-in caregivers.
Last week, we celebrated Evelyn’s 88th birthday with sandwiches, balloons, and a decorated cake.
To think, when Mary first opened her home to “Mom,” we all thought (including Evelyn) that this would last a year to a year-and-a-half before Evelyn joined her beloved Donald.
It’s been over a dozen years, and St. Mary (she really is) remains an active loving caregiver in Evelyn’s life–visiting and bringing treats for Evelyn and the other ladies. She has made arrangements for her hair dresser to go to the home and do all of the ladies’ hair. And for Easter, Mary says she will be picking up straw hats, flowers, ribbons, and stuffed birds for the ladies to make their own Easter Bonnets. It should be noted, Mary pays out of pocket for all of Evelyn’s care minus her meager Social Security. Sadly, Evelyn’s children don’t seem to make the effort to be involved. I would love to name St. Mary our Caregiver of the Month but she is shy about these things. She gave me permission to share her story only because I assured her it will help others.
Mary Barrass’ story, A Prayer Answered, is one of the caregiver stories in Finding the JOY in Alzheimer’s: Caregivers Share the JOYFUL Times.
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