Leaving LoRayne

With a dab of perseverance and a dollop of faith, My Aunt LoRayne proved to me that in the worst of circumstances, all things are possible with God!!

The worst nine months of my life? Possibly. Mostly because I have fibromyalgia, a little known illness that sometimes includes chronic pain and debilitating fatigue. The doctors back then had told me to stay stress free. Oh sure…

Actually, I was doing okay until my Aunt LoRayne was found lying on the church lawn a block from her home, having suffered a heart attack. Alan, my husband, and I drove the hour and a half to Williamson, LoRayne’s and my home town, only to be told her heart was too weak for an operation. I arranged for her to see a specialist in our capital city of Charleston, West Virginia, Dr. K.C. Lee.

Dr. Lee was compassionate, but honest: LoRayne had a 50 percent chance of surviving the surgery because of her deteriorating heart.

Faith in hand, LoRayne, or Lo, as we called her, didn’t hesitate to let Dr. Lee know who was in charge. “God didn’t let me survive to let me die,” she told him. “Between you and God, I’ll be fine.” She dismissed her grim odds. Remarkably, she did much better than expected and came to rest and recuperate with Alan and me after her surgery.

The counselors were emphatic about her diet restrictions, particularly one: “Feed her no sodium.” Not to worry. Because of my own health, I was sensitive to medical instruction. I scoured the aisles at the local grocery and made her meals from scratch. I wasn’t staying stress free, but God would see me through. It won’t be that long and she’ll be able to care for herself, I told myself.

Two weeks later, a thud in the middle of a restless night jarred me fully awake. I found Lo bunched up on the bedroom floor. We rushed to the hospital by ambulance, where an Emergency Room physician quizzed me as to why there was no sodium in my aunt’s system.

“Well they told me not to…”

In my zeal, I had overdone my job and almost killed my aunt. I called the hospital. “You distinctly said ‘NO sodium!” I said.

The voice on the other end was incredulous. “Nobody omits ALL the sodium!”

It was a relief of sorts: a fixable solution and we could finally go out to dinner! LoRayne and I were both ecstatic. She was as tired of eating bland meals as I was of cooking them.

Alan allowed me to sleep in the mornings, checking on LoRayne before work and sometimes fixing her breakfast. My sharp-minded aunt and Alan discussed news and political events, religion, and even one upped each other with sports statistics. The patient was doing better than the primary caregiver—me!

We joked about the sodium incident each time I cooked. Maybe it was because of that episode that I wasn’t overly alarmed when I found LoRayne disoriented and teetering in the bathroom. I remember thinking: It’s probably a deficiency of something.

A quick phone call and Alan informed me she had been alert and capable when he left.

“Lo, let’s get you dressed.” She responded with gibberish and could barely walk. As I prodded her arms through her blouse, fearing the worst at that point, my words consoled: “Some enzyme must be out of whack. We’ll get it fixed, darling.”

She had a routine appointment that morning with a Primary Care physician she’d briefly seen in the hospital. I decided it might be best to keep it rather than risk a long wait in an emergency room. The glaze over her eyes frightened me and I hauled a mostly incoherent, babbling woman into his office, only to be told her condition was common among the elderly—dementia. He might as well have told me she was the bride of Frankenstein.

“It’s not possible,” I kept repeating. “Last night she recited a recipe from memory and we played gin rummy after dinner. Dementia doesn’t come on like the flu!”

But, he wasn’t her regular doctor and didn’t know the intelligent, take-charge woman who had suffered a heart attack just a few weeks ago. Telling us nothing could be done, unbelievably, he sent us away.

Frustrated and more scared than I’d ever been, I drove to her cardiologist’s office, where I rigged her arms around my shoulders and dragged her inside. Hopeful though I was, he told us the same thing. “She has dementia. She’s old!” Yes, but…

People stared as I lugged LoRayne through doctor’s buildings. Haven’t you ever seen a drooling, old person being towed by a hysterical middle-aged woman?! With only one option left, I asked if she had enough energy to visit her surgeon, Dr. Lee. She nodded yes and I knew she was as scared as me. Oh Lord, why didn’t I call an ambulance this morning?

“I’m so sorry LoRayne.”

She shook her head lovingly, but the glaze scared me. What if Dr. Lee turns her away? I knew we were both thinking the same thing.

Dr. Lee saw her immediately and after a few word and sight tests, he knew she’d had a stroke, a diagnosis I’d figured out by then. He would admit her to the hospital. Tears flooded her face and I fell sobbing in a grateful and exhausted heap into his chair. Every muscle and bone in my body ached.

The right side of LoRayne’s body was paralyzed and her speech was garbled. They told us she’d probably never speak clearly or walk again. Lo rolled her eyes. “We’ll see about that!” they said. Having survived countless operations during her life, she and God were up to the challenge.

My caregiving was now replaced with rehab visits.

Several weeks later, she left rehab shuffling on a walker and talking, some words garbled, a few understandable. Her progress was amazing, but she had a long way to go. Alan and I worked with her and she continued therapy. Every day marked a small milestone. She was my sidekick and though the stroke had made her emotionally dependent on me, she insisted her goal was to live independently.

After months of home therapy and care, amazingly, she felt ready to live on her own with a part-time caregiver. And she wanted to go home, to Williamson, back to her church and friends. We sold her house, found homes for the stuff she didn’t need, and found an apartment in a high rise for the elderly, a short walk into town. Perfect. Within weeks she was set up for housekeeping, complete with caregiver. She was excited and scared and so was I. Add to that totally exhausted. It had been nine long months and some days I felt near total collapse.

Not so for Lo! She was excited about her new living arrangement and the wonderful women who shared the seventh floor. “God put me in the perfect spot,” she informed me. She made it sound more like a sorority than an apartment.

Still, she was emotionally dependent on me; we talked on the phone several times a day and always before bedtime. I was excited for her, but the responsibility for her finances, the detailed care, the selling of her house, and the parceling of furnishings had taken a major toll. My fibromyalgia flared to a new level. And then depression set in. Alan suggested we take a month and drive through the Rockies. I loved the West, but it seemed too soon to leave LoRayne. Plus, the repercussions to my own body might upset the plan.

“We’ll be laid back,” Alan assured me. “We’ll stop and go as you want and sightsee at our leisure.” A perfect plan. I worried about broaching it to Lo, but after telling her, she seemed okay. However, the day before we left, she cried into the telephone: “I can’t believe you’re leaving me!”

My heart dropped. “I’m not leaving you, Lo, I’ll be gone a few weeks, we can still talk on the phone, and if there’s an emergency, I’ll fly home.” That seemed to satisfy her.

Two days into the journey, however, LoRayne cried into the telephone again: “Don’t leave me! Please don’t leave me alone!” I listened in disbelief and tried to reassure her. “You’re not alone, Lo. You have a wonderful support system of friends, a caregiver, and you have God.” But each call was the same. By the time we got to Kansas I told Alan we should probably turn back.

Alan was my angel. “I’ll do whatever you think best, but you need to think about your health, too,” he said.

Prayers and tears came easily that night. “Dear God,” I prayed, “please show me what to do, because, Lord, if LoRayne is the same tomorrow, I’m turning around.” It was probably after 2:00 a.m. when I finally dozed off.

I told Alan what I’d prayed without much enthusiasm about the possible result. However, when I called Lo that morning, she said, “I’m so sorry, Karyn. Please don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

I was stunned! Thank you, Lord! When I found my voice, I asked, “What happened?”

She had prayed to Father God and had spoken to her caregiver; both had told her what she already knew—she was acting childish and selfish. Her words. My aunt had never been either. Emotionally she had to untie the rope and set herself free and with Father God’s help, that’s exactly what she did.

It started out harrowing, but Alan and I had a wonderful vacation and Lo gained a new sense of independence. She’d been told she’d never walk or talk again, but in less than a year, God rendered a different verdict. We serve an awesome God!

When I look back, I see that the impossible was made possible with God. He was always there—prodding, helping, and carrying—serving as caregiver to both Lo and me, giving each of us what we needed at precisely the right moment.

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38 thoughts on Leaving LoRayne

  1. I didn’t know your Aunt, but I know you, and I am happy to see your blog and to know that my buddy is sounding better. Sending prayers for health and happiness! Your Aunt was so lucky to have you and Alan as her family and care givers!

  2. Unbelievable that 2 doctors would declare dementia when you told them she’d been “normal” the day before.
    Your sodium story reminded me…some years back my Dad, who drank coffee all day long, was told to cut out caffeine and my Mom thought that meant immediately. I said, “I really think he needs to taper off. We’re trying to help him, not kill him.”

  3. Hi Karyn, it is so thrilling to live portions of your life through your blog. You are gifted with a beautiful way of communicating. How fortunate God put you two together (two lovely ladies) and used you as vessels for His miracles. My mother suffered with fibromyalgia at a time when doctors considered it “all in her head”. It was very dibilitating, depressing and frustrating. My prayers are that you are doing better, that stress is being kept at bay, you are able to sleep and that you are living the “all is well” life God’s mercy provides.

  4. Once again, my friend, you have touched my heart with your wonderful gift. We do serve an awesome God!

  5. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” 1 Peter 5: 6-7

  6. LoRayne had the strongest faith of anyone I’ve ever met. And she lived it – she didn’t just talk it. Thanks, Karyn, for bringing this all back.

  7. Hi Karyn:
    This was such a wonderful and inspiring story!
    I remember your aunt so vividly as a part of the town I grew up in.
    The picture you published is beautiful and she looks EXACTY as she did many years ago – lovely and smiling.
    Thank you for the stroll down memory lane. My heart feels lifted up.

    Donna Hatton Humphreys

  8. What a beautiful story. You are an amazing and kind person. I was my dad’s caregiver during his last four months as he battled cancer. I also say that it was sad and also upliving. We had wonderful conversations and like your aunt he was so brave and strong. You are so lucky to have Alan in your life.

  9. Another one for the book. Remember LoRsyne so well.. Her name instantly connects me to Aunt Audry and your Mom.Always a smile and a hug… Absolutely blessed to have her in your life. I suffer with fibromyalgia so know the difficulties that can erupt at anytime and disrupt plans. Blessings… Love you girlfriend.and your sweet hubby.

  10. She was such a neat lady…..my Mom and LoRayne were such good friends. I love reading your blog….you paint such a vivid picture of the story you are telling. Thanks for sharing your gifts with us….keep on writing !!!!

  11. I have enjoyed reading this so much. I am so honored to have known LoRayne. The last time we were together was at the Presbyterian Church in Willismson at a Cantata. She csme over to sit with us and said, “it’s good to be with Hardy people that loves the Lord”.

    So now when I hear the noises in our house I will just say, it’s LoRayne dropping in to visit these Hardy people that love the Lord.

    Thank you again for sharing a blessing

  12. What a wonderful story about LoRayne, our prayer warrior. Miss her so much🙏😍

  13. Karyn…I’ve read all these other comments. And, w/each one, I think, omg, just what I’m thinking. And, it’s so so true. Each person has captured a different perspective of this riveting blog post. You have a gift that you are sharing w/all of us making me and, I believe, all of us, better. Thank you, my dear friend…quite frankly when we were spinning tales and running wild and crazy ‘back in the day’ at M.U., I would never have imagined your touching destiny. Thank God for social media and finding each other again. Love you, girl ~ally

  14. Hi dear Karyn….I’m catching up on my e-mails, and as you can see am way behind! Thank you for sharing this lovely and inspiring story of sweet LoRayne. She was such a beautiful lady inside and out….and always made people around her feel special. She had such a lovely laugh, great sense of humor, and sweet demeanor. I miss her, too!

  15. Karyn, I loved being around Lo so much. She knew the answer to every question you asked her. She was the most beautiful person, inside and out, that I have known. Thanks for reminding us what’s important in life. Family and friends you can never have enough. Love you Karyn.

  16. Beautifully written. Thinking about LoRayne today and pulled up your blog again. Lo would be so proud of you. You,Alan & Dr Lee were miracle workers during those bleak times We know it was our Heavenly Father and Lo’s unwavering faith that brought her back to good health. I cherished the visit & stay I had with Lo at her apt. In Williamson. She was so proud of her independence and recovery. She had such a beautiful spirit which you share and continue to lift people up. She loved you & Alan dearly. Thank you for being there during the difficult times. although I have little family left on this earth. I feel especially blessed for my cousin Karyn & Alan. I love you!! You are a gifted writer. I am so impressed with your stories. Keep them coming.

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