Uncle Gary is my mother’s second youngest brother, the last one still living of a family of fourteen. He will be 90 in August. My grandparents were members of a small congregation of Sommerfelder Mennonites in southwestern Saskatchewan that was somewhat isolated from other Mennonite communities. They spoke Plautdietsch and English at home; the church services were all in German, a language that the youngest eight children never learned. There really was no point in them even going to church.
Uncle Gary enlisted in the army during World War II and served as a scout for troop movements. One day he was struck by a piece of shrapnel that blew away part of his jaw. Medics patched him up in a tent near the battlefield and he recovered with a scar that is barely visible today.
When he came home from the war, he took special note of a young waitress named Mauvereen in a town not far from his parents’ home. He wanted to get to know her, but she refused outright to go to a dance with him, or to the movies. He realized the only way to spend time with her was to go to the church she attended. Eventually they got married.
Today, uncle Garry will tell you that he would never advise a Christian young lady to marry an unconverted man, that usually it will not turn out well. But in uncle Gary’s case, after a number of years of marriage the Lord spoke clearly to his heart and he became a Christian.
They raised two children, spent many happy years together, then in her early sixties Mauvereen developed dementia and eventually had to be placed in a nursing home. Gary faithfully spent time with her every day and would feed her when he was there. He soon realized this was not the right thing to do as Mauvereen would refuse to take food from anyone else. Little by little Gary turned the task over to the nursing home staff.
For the past fifteen years she has not shown any sign that she recognized Gary, yet he went every day to spend some time with her. She was the only girlfriend he ever had and he loved her to the end. A few days ago I got word that aunt Mauvereen had passed away.
Alzheimer’s, or dementia in any form, is a terrible thing. Yet others have reported that, even though people suffering from dementia are unable to show any outward signs, deep down inside there is still a spark of recognition at the presence of a loved one, at the sound of their voice. For uncle Gary’s and aunt Mauvereen’s sakes, I want to believe it.