Saturday, April 18, 2009

Memories Of Nelda (Sue Simons)

Sue Simons and her husband, Tom, were good friends of my parents in St. Louis before relocating to Kentucky. When Dad had his stroke and we had to put Mom in a nursing home, Sue drove to Missouri and stayed at their house for weeks. She was so instrumental in allowing us to navigate the early months when all of us were hundreds of miles away. Sue spent an incredible amount of time with Mom and Dad daily as well as doing groundwork in preparing for their move to Kansas. We are in her debt. Here are some of Sue's remembrances of my mother.

I first met Nelda in 1986, shortly after having moved to St Louis. My mother-in-law was visiting and we had gone to a meeting at Lafayette (Church of Christ). It was at this meeting that we learned that Roger had been her first date and that Roger's dad had performed Tom's parents wedding. We went out to Dairy Queen after the meeting so that Melba (my mother-in-law) and Roger could catch up on old times. I sat in amazement at how gracious this woman was to sit quietly while her husbands’ one time date enjoyed catching up on old times. Over the next couple years we had occasional meetings, briefly at church meetings. It wasn’t until a few years later when we started attending Lafayette as our home congregation that our friendship began and her role as a mentor to me. We enjoyed working on educational projects together, we both shared a deep love for sharing God’s word with children. One Sunday, Nelda approached me after worship and said that I really needed to come to the ladies class that was going on that Sunday afternoon. The class was one of sharing and recovering from hurts. Nelda knew I had been abused as a child; I had put the abuse behind me and had no desire to bring it back out in the light. Nelda pursued further – “you need to come” After a fairly lengthy batter back and forth I finally agreed to come – but I wasn’t happy about it. I came to the class and was rather upset when I was asked to share with the class. I breathed deeply and decided to get it over with; I shared with the class how I had been raised by parents who were respected in our hometown and church. How I had been beaten so badly that welts on my legs didn’t heal until years after I had been married; and the emotional scars were still something I battled on almost a daily basis. After class a young woman came up to me with tears in her eyes; she thanked me for sharing my story because she knew if I could survive, so could she. Suddenly I realized why Nelda had pushed me so hard to come and share my story; this young woman needed to hear my story so she could start her recovery. I went up to Nelda a little later and said “you knew, didn’t you.” She smiled her gentle smile and nodded her head. I realized then that it was wrong of me not to share the stories of how God had tempered my “steel”; While God sometimes allows us to walk through fires to make us stronger, sometimes we’re needed to help someone else who is walking through fire who needs help to get through the fire. Had it not been for Nelda’s gentle ‘shove’ I would never have learned that lesson. Nelda and I shared many more years of working together in God’s service.

Unfortunately, Alzheimer's stepped in and took this dear friend from us. Even though she struggled with this horrible disease, she still wanted to serve. I remember having a talk with her on one of my stays with Roger & Nelda after the Alzheimer’s had set in. I had gone to spend a couple weeks with them so that Roger could have a break; even though the women at Lafayette had been wonderful to relieve him, it wasn’t the same as just being able to go and run an errand without having to schedule it. Nelda and I sat talking and she said that Roger wouldn’t let her teach any more, and with tears running down her face, she expressed how much she wanted to make a difference in the life of children. My heart nearly broke to hear her talk and I finally stopped her and put my arms around her and told her that she might not remember it but she had made a difference in so many people’s life! It hurt me to think that she really had no idea of what a blessing she had been to so many people in her walk here on earth! Roger and Nelda held a marriage enrichment at their home that we attended with three other couples; they were so graceful in their presentation. The way they presented the materials showed the grace and beauty they had learned to be as a couple together. It amazed me that even as her Alzheimer’s progressed, she always seemed to know who Roger was; while she might not have realized he was her husband, she knew he was someone very special to her.
One only has to look at her children to know what a special woman Nelda was! My grandfather once told me that I didn’t need to worry about what other people thought of me as long as I was living the life of the Virtuous Woman in the Bible, that’s all that was important. Of all the women I’ve known in my life, Nelda is one of few who seemed to use that as a pattern for her life. Truly, Nelda walked in the path of God and has led many others along the way.

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