Thursday, September 5, 2013

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” ― John Bunyan

Over fifteen years ago, when my father had retired and his and mom's health started failing, my sister, Penny, left her very good job in Houston, and moved to a small town in Arkansas to take care of her parents.  She got a job teaching math in a middle school, took a huge hit in her income, and bought a house a couple of blocks from my parents.  She would see them every day, cook for them, take them to the doctor, and see that they did their exercises.  She helped them with their finances.  This was not easy because my father was very independent and on more than one occasion sent her crying back to her house because he had insulted the food she had brought them or some other thing.  Yet still she stayed, teaching every day and caring for my parents.  After my father died in 2003, she sold both Mom's house and hers and bought a new one in town (they had lived out on Eden Isle which was far from town) so Mom could be closer to church and to where she got her hair done.  Penny made friends with all of Mom's friends and carried her to church regularly.  We all kind of expected Mom to die within a year or two of Dad, but Mom outlived her own mother who died at 96.  Penny retired from teaching and devoted all of every day to taking care of Mom.  When the time came for Mom to go in a home, Penny picked out a good one that turned out to be a bad one and then moved Mom to a better one.  She saw her two or three times a day and never missed a family meeting and got to know every single one of the aides who cared for Mom as well as the Director of the Nursing Home.  Penny found herself with time on her hands, so she did some substitute teaching and then went to work for an organization that dealt with troubled kids.  She also worked at a dog rescue place and brought two or three of those home with her to take care of as well.  Thanks to my brother, Rob, who taught at the University of Memphis, he would drive over twice a month or more and help out with visits and keeping Penny company.  My brother, Joe, and his wife, Mary Jane, also visited regularly and allowed Penny to take some three and four day breaks to visit with friends in Houston and New Orleans.  The impressive thing, to me, is that she gave up her life, home, and friends in Houston and moved to a small, rural Arkansas town to take care of our parents for almost two decades.  She's my role model and my hero.  You just don't hear about that kind of love much any more.  We've named one of our preschool here, St. Penny's, and the pastor and seamstress are coming tomorrow to start making the uniforms for the forty orphans and poor children who attend there.  We will keep her name alive here in Tanzania for a long time to come, but she will be a huge part of my heart forever.

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