My friend Betty's lifesong was a strong one

May 6, 2020 Betty Starks Case

I hope I might be forgiven if I skip a Mother's Day column to share my response to a few current events and to the care I received here at Homestead.

A week ago, Betty Jean Jarvis, my closest friend at Homestead, passed suddenly from our world.

I was devastated. We not only shared first and middle names, but we'd been table mates from the day Ned and I arrived at this caring place.

Our husbands knew one another.

We'd helped Betty and Myron celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.

When Ned and I checked into Homestead, the first person I saw was Betty Jarvis.

"Betty's here!" I exclaimed. "Can we sit with her?"

I recall our escort suggesting, "We thought you'd sit at this other table."

I have to laugh at myself in memory, pulling Ned along as I insisted, "We have to sit with Betty."

Bless their hearts, this caring staff left us there. I'm so glad they did.

Renewing our friendship with Betty, we soon learned that our connections reached back to our teen years when Betty was a cheerleader at Shoshoni High School and I a cheerleader at Pavillion High School.

There was much to share in our short years together at Homestead.

I learned that Betty and Myron loved herding their cattle with his airplane. She said they took lunches and made it a picnic. I was fascinated.

Their mailbox itself was a little plane, a work of art, in my book.

We'd both known and loved the country life. They enjoyed it for a lifetime, while Ned and I spent ours sometimes owning a farm, sometimes living in town.

In urban life, we bought land on the outskirts, pretending we were still rural folk, with the "creeping construction" always finding its way out to envelop us.

Betty didn't initiate a lot of conversation. She was busy helping other Homestead residents who had difficulty filling out a menu, or cutting meat so one with poor teeth could eat it.

When I read the obituary telling of her life interest in helping others, I understood.

Betty didn't tell me she'd graduated business college in Denver. Instead, she often exclaimed, "I'd be petrified if someone told me I had to write a newspaper column like you do!"

Clearly, she could have.

Always, I'd respond, "And I'd be petrified if someone told me I was expected to play the piano!"

We were members of the same church. Before the horrible COVID-19 arrived, Betty and I rode the church bus together to attend.

So I reminded her of the long-ago pastor who often advised us to "Use the gifts God gave you."

We did.

The rest of my story is about how the staff here at Homestead responded to my devastation at losing my friend.

To me, their response honored Betty Jean Jarvis as well -- and rightfully so.

My tears were close to the surface, the loss of Ned still so tender.

Homestead staff brought hugs, food and caring conversation. Many residents brought more hugs and gentle words.

A nurse came to my door, saying, "Get your mask and come with me."

I was puzzled.

She took me out the front door and pointed to a huge, colorful wreath on the wall. Atop the wreath was a robin nest.

Ned and I had spent many hours last summer watching the young birds hatch, eat, and finally, the chick with a bit of white fuzz still on his head, topple from the nest.

When I saw dandelions blooming outside my window and recalled in childhood picking them for my mother, a staff member asked, "Do you want them?"

She brought me a bouquet.

Another staffer shared her yogurt to make sure I stayed well. Further, I was not left to eat at a long table alone, not for even one meal.

I'd known the family of Virginia, my new table mate, long ago. Already we were friends.

That evening, Virginia, who plays piano by ear, asked, "Do you think staff would approve my playing Betty's piano a bit in memory of her?"

Approved. I sat with Virginia at the piano for the tribute.

Music, the beautiful energy that sang the lifesong of Betty Jean Jarvis, lives on.

Print Story
Read The Ranger...