“The seasons will always turn. The clouds will gather, and the cold will come. We will survive them. We will grow regardless of the weather. We will know wonder where there has been despair. There will be happiness, and we will remember it. There will be friendships which we won’t forget. Love is the constant, whereby we endure all winters and all storms. It is the climate in which all things can thrive. Welcome the darkness. Embrace it as a canopy from which the stars can hang. For there are always stars when we are where we ought to be, amongst the faces we love best. Each with our place, each with our purpose, as fixed and familiar as the constellations. The darkness is beautiful. For how else can we shine?” (Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife)
How dementia manifests in a person is unique. Although we can look at a medical book and review common symptoms, what that looks like for your loved one can only be described by those who love and care for them daily.
My mom, husband, and I visited Uncle Eugene (my mom’s brother), Aunt Lee, Chris (Eugene and Lee’s son), and his family. Chris has been the primary caretaker of Aunt Lee and continues to care for his father with the help of friends and loved ones. Our visit over fried chicken and sides was filled with love. Aunt Lee suffered from dementia. Although her conversations were limited to specific topics, the topics were the core of her being–her life story.
Upon hearing of her passing, I reflected back on my last conversation with her. There were three things she talked about and wanted us to understand.
- The cross on her wall
- Her family portrait on the wall next to the cross
- Her travels
Knowing that conversations are what they are–unpredictable and based on the feelings and company of the day, I knew that my reflections were specific to that space and time and the ears upon which the words fell. So, I write this knowing that perceptions and understanding are variables for the present moment.
As she floated from family, cross, and her travels, her primary focus was the cross. She pointed to the cross on the wall and tried so hard to put the pieces together of how it got there. What I did hear consistently was “That is the most important….” and of all the things, ‘This is what mattered most to her.” It felt as if she were trying to remind me of our faith and the importance of the cross.
Chris firmed up the story for me, when I asked him to send me a picture of the cross and the family portrait.
Lee’s church, Brodnax United Methodist Church, was built in 1905. Today the wood in the cross would be 117 years old. The cross was made of a rafter brace removed from the attic when the oval stained glass window was placed in the gable end on the front of the church. The back of the cross says, “This brace was in place for many years to help hold the church together. Just like you, mama, you have helped to hold the church together. Happy Mother’s Day. ” Love Chris
I thought about Lee’s story. Of all the things should could talk about and share, her memory, like love, remembered her faith, her family, and her travels later in life.
In her dementia, she was wiser than most of us running around busy and not focusing on the importance of what matters most.
Lee, I know that you are with Him face-to-face. Your battles conquered and your faith has walked you home to the loving arms of your Father. Your legacy will be His love poured out, your enduring love for your family, and the importance of embracing life with travel and fellowship.
Although I have no control over my mind and words if I live as long as Lee did; however, I pray in the midst of it, all my family will know these three things, too. So, I am writing them here for you.
Jesus loves you, always, and no matter what.
Although family can be challenging, love and forgive.
Embrace life with joy and travel.
In Memory of
Mattie Lee Pulley Pierce
12-2-1934 – 10-11-2022
Mrs. Mattie Lee Pulley Pierce, age 87 of Brodnax, died Tuesday, October 11, 2022 in MCV/VCU Hospital, Richmond. She has been a member of Brodnax United Methodist Church for 75 years. She taught the Primary Class in Sunday School, taught Vacation Bible School, served as delegate to Virginia United Methodist Conference, was a member of the United Methodist Women and served on the Pastor Parish Relations Committee. Mattie Lee was very important to the church and community. She served on the Brodnax Town Council, was an Honorary Member of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Brodnax Volunteer Fire Department and member of the Brodnax Garden Club.
Mattie Lee is survived by her husband of over sixty years Eugene A. Pierce, her son Christopher E. Pierce and wife Christy Lynn of Brodnax, two brothers; Charlie Buck Pulley of Brodnax and Booney Pulley of Union Level, four grandchildren; Thomas, Adam, Matthew and wife Amber and Dylan Pierce, one great grandchild Braxton Tucker Pierce and a daughter-in-law Lisa Watson of South Hill. She was predeceased by a son, Emmett Lee Pierce and a sister Nellie Mae Sculthrope.
The family will receive friends Monday, October 17, 2022 from 6:00 to 7:30 P.M at Crowder-Hite-Crews Funeral Home.
Memorial contributions in Mattie Lee’s name may be made to the Brodnax Volunteer Fire Department , 724 Piney Pond Road, Brodnax, Va. 23920 or the La Crosse Volunteer Fire Department , 202 Caroline Ave., La Crosse, Va. 23950.
Online condolences may be sent through our website, www.crowderhitecrews.com. Crowder-Hite-Crews Funeral Home and Crematory is serving the Pierce family.