Sunday, July 13, 2008

61 Years of Marriage

This story touched me. Quite frequently you hear about this and here is another example.

Delmar and Laverne Grieser died hours apart on July 8.

FISHER – Alzheimer's disease had begun to cloud and confuse the mind of a petite little woman named Laverne Hinton Grieser when she was in her 70s.

And as the disease took away Laverne's independence, her husband, Delmar, needed help. First a grown daughter moved home. Later they had to move Laverne into an Alzheimer's unit at a nursing home in Clinton, Ind., not far over the state line from Paris.

Delmar, ever devoted to the woman he called his beautiful lady, drove the 13 miles from their home in Rockville, Ind., to visit her every day. And even if she didn't recognize him or respond when he talked to her or held her hand, he came back and talked to her the next day.

But in February, health problems forced him to join her in the nursing home. They shared a room until she needed more intensive care and they moved him to another floor. Still, at least once a day he got someone to take him to her room and he sat beside her bed, calling her his pretty little lady. His pretty mommy.

And then on Tuesday, July 8, this long-ago Fisher farm boy became so ill that his family had his bed moved back into his wife's room. Their beds just a few feet apart, Laverne and Delmar were surrounded by family as he struggled for each breath. And then around noon, he died.

Laverne hadn't opened her eyes or talked in over a year. Very rarely would she be lucid enough to nod or shake her head if asked a question. But Tuesday was one of those days. "Do you know what's happening?" her daughter asked. Laverne nodded yes.

"Dad's not doing well, do you understand?" Again Laverne nodded.

And after Delmar drew his last breath, their oldest daughter leaned in close to her mother. "Dad's not in pain any more," she said. Laverne's children stood by as their mother's respiration began to slow. And when the staff wheeled his bed from the room, a daughter asked Laverne, "Do you understand what's happened?" Yes, Laverne nodded.

And miraculously, her children say, three hours and 35 minutes after her husband's death, Laverne died, too. "In so many ways it was such a blessing," said Mary Burkhart, their oldest daughter. "It's pretty special that they went together."

Laverne and Delmar will be buried today beside each other near Fisher in the East Bend Memorial Garden Cemetery, where his parents are buried. Both have deep roots in the northwestern area of Champaign County. They grew up in farm families within miles of each other. He graduated from Fisher High School, and she graduated from Mansfield High School. Both went on to graduate from the University of Illinois, but they didn't begin to date until she was doing an internship in Indianapolis. When World War II came, Delmar served in the Army; Laverne wrote him scores of letters.

After the war, he worked on the family farm while Laverne continued her education at the UI. Then on Jan. 25, 1947, they eloped to Bedford, Ky.

They spent their married lives moving every six or seven years, as he was transferred from store to store within the Sears Roebuck company. He managed the stores and Laverne worked as a dietitian. They had three daughters and a son and took a couple of family vacations across country to the West Coast and many more fishing trips. Delmar kept a large garden and Laverne helped him with it. She cooked up nutritious family meals, and loved to play the piano. They kept their family and religion the priorities in their lives.

Delmar had been raised Mennonite and Laverne as a Methodist. When they married they wanted to blend their beliefs, so they attended the Christian and Baptist churches. When they retired in Indiana they were members of the Rockville Christian Church but also attended a Baptist church there on Sunday evenings.

"They were really active in their church, and they had a real strong belief in supporting missions and children's ministries. And though my dad was 87 and she was 83, up until a few years ago they still helped out with Bible school every year at both churches. They were pretty neat people," Burkhart said.

Their family grew to include seven grandchildren, though one died in infancy, and they always made time for their daughters and son and grandchildren.

"They were always there for us," Burkhart said. "Family was their main thing."

Delmar was the boss of the two, though Laverne wasn't a meek or mild person, Burkhart said. She spoke her opinions, but believed that the man should be the head of the household.

"They had an unbelievably loving relationship," Burkhart said. "He called her 'Mommy' sometimes because that's what we called her. And 'my fat wife,'" she said, laughing, because she was real skinny, but he didn't call her that after she got Alzheimer's. Then he just called her 'my pretty girl.' 'My sweet mommy.' 'My pretty lady.'"

Their funeral will be this morning at the Dewey Mennonite Church.

Their matching, simple oak coffins will be closed, because in their ill health, both had become so thin. Laverne's coffin will have a spray of blue and white flowers. She loved blue. And the flowers on Delmar's coffin will be red, white and blue, to signify his service in the Army.

The coffins will be placed near each other. And beside Laverne's coffin will be a special bouquet.

Every year, for as long as anyone can remember, Delmar sent Laverne a dozen red roses for their anniversary, her birthday and Mother's Day.

"Every year," their daughter said. "Orchids for Easter, and roses for everything else. A dozen red roses. So we're going to have a vase with a dozen red roses beside her that says 'Beloved Wife.'

"That's what Dad would want."

They had an amazing relationship, Burkhart said, and she and her sisters and brother had prayed they'd both go together.

"They were married for 61 years ... and only apart for three hours."

No comments: