I was welcomed into Ezra’s home with a warm smile and the smell of wood and well-loved hand knitted blankets. As I sat and grew even more comfortable, he informed me that he was a finished carpenter and does woodworking for a hobby; he helped build the house we were in.
I could have looked at his pieces and talked about that passion for hours, but we both knew the real reason I was there to talk about; his wife, Lena.
“Lena did not grow up where I did [in Tennessee]. I was walking down the street one day and saw a friend from school and with him just about the prettiest girl I have ever seen. I chatted with him, gave her a nod and a smile, and went on my way. Well, I looked back, and she was looking back. I remind her about that often, how she was looking back too!”
Ezra met Lena in 1947, and they were married on April 10th, “Sixty-six years,” he said, with a reminiscent twinkle in his eye.
“When I met her, she was very pretty, and still, she is very pretty.” He talked about her wit and playful attitude, how at her places of employment she was loved by many.
Lena was not sitting with us to humbly blush at all the compliments; Lena suffers from dementia and has been living in a nursing home for the past two and a half years.
“Oh, I cried when I was signing all the paperwork,” Ezra said when I asked him about his initial reaction to Lena’s need to leave. He knew, however, he could no longer give her the care she needed. “This just wasn’t home to her anymore.”
He told me a few stories about how she would wander around at night, even once going over to the neighbors thinking they called for her to babysit. For those who aren’t familiar with dementia, “It's an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities,” (Alzheimer’s Disease Association). Lena has lost most of her memory and ability to do “simple“ tasks, such as feeding herself or forming complete sentences. Luckily, but not surprisingly, Lena still recognizes Ezra, and can easily tell him, “ I love you.”
Ezra is also lucky has the support of many, family and friends. He has three children that take turns visiting him once a day, 6 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren; one on the way! Every Sunday he attends Apex in Xenia and then has a big family dinner at the nursing home. He also uses his house to host house church; “I love it”, he boasts about his extended family.
When I asked how he sees Gods in all of this, he leaned back with a big grin on his face. “I got another story for you”. He told me that God definitely led him and his family from Tennessee to Dayton, because a year after they moved, Lena was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“The doctors said it was almost too late. If we had stayed in Tennessee, we wouldn’t have known; the closest hospital was far. I would have lost her.”
While Ezra had a good paying job, the bills were still overwhelming. On a weekend they went back to Tennessee to clear out their old house so it could be rented; God had bigger and better plans. A man out enjoying a walk asked if they were selling their house, and that same day he bought it. An answer to a big prayer, the money was used to start paying off Lena’s hospital bills. As Ezra was writing the last check for $500, it was the exact amount they had left.
“God knew she was sick”, Ezra believes “ He has made it [his will] so plain, [at] different times”.
Ezra and his family truly believe in prayer, and God has shown up faithfully time and time again. He is not afraid to share his faith either; “That is what we should do, what He wants us to do. Not add to it or take away, just share what it is.”
As our time ended he walked me out to my car, even though it was sprinkling, and took my hand; I will never forget the sincerity in his voice “Please keep in touch.” And with deep sincerity in mine I replied “Of course.” I couldn’t wait for my husband to meet him.
Author: Ally Geis