Thursday, June 3, 2010

Good-bye, Glenda

I just found out that a former member of our church and friend, Glenda Butler, passed away in a nursing home in Minnesota just before Christmas.

Glenda was a troubled soul. Mental illness could easily have been her middle name. She claimed to have multiple personality disorder (think Sybil) which is now called dissociative identity disorder. She undoubtedly had depression, probably bi-polar and OCD as well. I can relate to mental illness - depression "runs" in my family, and panic/anxiety disorder dots it as well. I recognized that she was a difficult person to be with and speak to because of this, and as I tend to gravitate toward the underdog/neglected/avoided people, I struck up a friendship of sorts with her.

Glenda was an artist. Not a formally trained artist, but a person with potential. She enjoyed working with colored pencils and pastels. Nothing that she created would ever hang in a gallery or sell in a shop. But Glenda put her whole self into what she created, and it took time for her to do this. This meant that, for her, the final product was worth more than she could put a reasonable price to. I remember one substantial piece, a cross with a rose superimposed on the center, entitled "Christ, arose (a rose) from the Cross." Glenda also wrote poetry and songs. She always wanted to publish and sell what she created... she was quite prolific.

Every piece that Glenda made had some sort of spiritual significance. Glenda was a person who "spoke" with God. For her, God was a real person - she heard the voice of God speaking to her, just as if a friend were in the room with her. Do I think that God actually spoke to Glenda? Does that matter? Well, I don't (especially when God told her to buy a computer at Walmart or purchase a purebred puppy) and it actually did matter in her life. She knew I did not believe that God spoke to her, but continued to tell me about it.

Glenda was a needy person. I helped her, as did many other people. It was not always a rewarding thing, helping Glenda, but I do not regret anything I did for her. Other than her God, she felt alone in the world, since she had no living family. Her only purpose was to please her God (who was rather punitive, as her parents were rather punitive), and so when she decided that God wanted her to move up to Redwing, Minnesota from the assisted living facility she was in, to live with a friend and "help her out", no one could dissuade her. Never mind that Glenda was in a motorized wheel chair and hadn't been able to live on her own for over a year. Forget that the friend's house had stairs leading to the front door. This is what God told her to do.

Glenda never made it into the new dwelling. She fell, attempting to climb the steps to the front door. Her belongings stayed at the "friend's" house and she landed in a nursing home. A year later, I received a Christmas card from her saying that she was permanently in the nursing home with no funds to make long-distance phone calls. No doubt her friend made out well with Glenda's funds and belongings. I was in the middle of caring for my parents (as I still am) and did not get around to calling her. Truth be told, I did not have the energy, because with Glenda there was always a crisis brewing.

Yesterday, I received a phone call from another church member, who heard from another source that Glenda had passed away in her sleep just before Christmas. My response was that Glenda always wanted to "go home" to God, and if there is a God, then she is now happy.

I have thought often of Glenda and her beliefs and artistry. I wonder if it's a good thing or a bad thing to put your whole self into what you create. I don't know if I believe in a god, either. I'm not sorry I became involved in Glenda's life, even though at one point I had to separate myself from her problems in order to live my life. She will always be a part of my life and who I am.

Good-bye, Glenda. May you finally rest in peace.

1 comment:

Laurel said...

What a lovely tribute to a complex friendship. May she rest well in her God's arms.