Joyce Clapp’s husband had come to live at Hope & A Future toward the end of his life. He had lived in another facility for sometime while on our waiting list. He looked forward to moving here in large part because of his beloved friend Brian. Brian offers spiritual support through Agrace Hospice. Brian had told him that he knew people at Hope & A Future and they were good musicians and nice people. Edward Charles Clapp was a kind and grateful man. After being with us for a short time he asked me if there was a room for his wife here. I told him there was and that his children were making plans for her to move in. His eyes popped open and his face showed a combination of relief and joy.
Ed’s wife Joyce did not realize her memory was failing or remember that she was doing things like leaving burners on and falling while alone at home. She had lived in her home for most of their 60+ years of marriage and she felt safe there. So when the day came for her to move–she was not happy. In fact she was very upset. She wanted her furniture taken back home and she wanted to leave with it. One evening I heard her talking with Ed, saying, “This is not like our home!” Ed replied, “No Joyce, it is not like our home. But we need something different now. We are old now and we need help. These are nice people and we need them.” I remember my eyes feeling hot with tears, being grateful that Ed felt safe enough with us to want his wife to be here too.
It was a journey, but within weeks Joyce began to settle in and within months she began referring to Hope & A Future as home. She had enjoyed being a homemaker and she soon began helping in the kitchen. She loved doing dishes and peeling vegetables. During these times she relaxed and enjoyed light hearted conversation. In time she started folding towels. Not only were they carefully folded, but all loose threads were trimmed and rough edges were mended. She also enjoyed playing cards. She was competitive and often a happy winner! The week before Joyce died, she and Janet had played a competitive game of cards–to their surprise Janet and Joyce ended the game with the same numbers on their cards! Before the pandemic, Joyce loved to help get ready for our monthly pot-lucks. She helped make decorations and arranged flowers for the party theme. And she liked to talk about the menu and help with food preparation too. Although her hearing was a challenge, she enjoyed the live music at the parties–especially fiddle and harmonica which she had grown up listening to. One day Janet realized that her sense of home had taken an interesting twist. Joyce had what healthcare people refer to as disorientation to time. She did not know what decade she lived in. And home became an interesting combination of her childhood home, her married home and Hope & A Future. The common denominator may have been safety and love.
Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor and author. During the first COVID shutdown in the United States, she published a sermon describing how Christians might interpret the oft-given scriptural command to “Be not afraid.” She made reference to the Bible verse in Luke 13:34 where Jesus is speaking to Jerusalem saying;
“ . . . How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!”
The idea is a picture of God as a Mother Hen gathering vulnerable little ones under her protective wings. The little ones know they belong there and there they find warmth and shelter. This is a comforting picture of love. Yet, it is an unfortunate truth that foxes exist and if one comes along, a Mother Hen may not be able to offer safety. Danger exists and it is not optional, but fear is. Nadia Bolz-Weber suggests that maybe the opposite of fear isn’t bravery. Maybe the opposite of fear is love. The kind of love that says, “We are in this together”. I think Joyce’s sense of home may have come from an internal knowing that the best response to the very real dangers in life is not fear–the best response is to accept the invitation to love the people you are with. Imagine the impact on our world if we all accepted the invitation.
Spring was Joyce’s favorite time of the year. Mid winter, she would begin to pour over seed catalogs. In the evening while waiting for the news to come on Joyce and my husband Rick often poured over these catalogs together. She would tell him where the best store was to buy plants and hold up her hands to show him a height of 4 to 6 inches saying, “it is best to buy them about this tall.” Each spring Joyce and I would start seeds in seed trays and get excited when the seeds sprouted. This spring Joyce was not able to help and a part of me decided to buy plants “about this tall” instead. I will likely start a few seeds this week, but the tomato and pepper plants will come from the store. And when we plant the raised bed that has become Joyce’s, we will remember her.
Sunday evening April 3rd, while sitting at the table talking after the evening meal, Joyce began to tell people she would be leaving soon. She spoke as if she was going, although she did not say where. Her son-in-law Tim was visiting and when he stood up to leave he said, “Well, I will see you tomorrow” but Joyce said she did not think she would be here. When tomorrow came, Joyce was no longer speaking to us. She held our hands and looked into our eyes for short times, but she was now on a journey to leave her earthly home. Her final days were peaceful. On Thursday afternoon April 7th, Joyce Clapp quietly and peacefully left this life with her loving daughter Janet at her side. We sang Amazing Grace as she left the building for the last time–with the knowledge that she will always be part of the love in this earthly home.
Peace be the journey,