“This is about Mom.”
Sue Flagler and Jane Deubler wanted to make that clear, as the two sisters sat side-by-side on the living room sofa in the Deubler family’s Brattleboro vacation home. Jane and her husband, Tom, had come up from Brockton for the holidays, while Sue and her husband, Rick, drove over from their home in nearby Richmond, New Hampshire, so the four could catch a matinee.
For the past 40 minutes they had been reminiscing about their mother, Helen, who passed away in autumn 2008. But the memory of their father couldn’t help but insinuate itself into the narrative from time to time. After all, it was John Lord who grew up in the Brattleboro area. Helen was from Lake Placid, and the two met in Schenectady while she was in nursing school and he was doing his medical internship.
The Second World War intervened within months after they were married, sending John overseas for three years while Helen worked as a nurse in Schenectady. It wasn’t long after his return from the service, however, that the young couple moved to Brattleboro. John established a private family practice while Helen took on the full-time position of mother to three daughters: Nancy, Jane, and Sue.
“We used to walk home from school for lunch every day. She had a homemade meal ready every day, with cookies for dessert,” recalled Jane, while acknowledging that she wasn’t sure she could have done that with her two boys, Jim and John, both of whom are now adults.
Helen also played an integral role in the growth of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital in the 1960s. John would often bring doctors over to the house for dinner as part of the recruitment process, a kindness that was repaid this summer when Helen had to spend time in the Intensive Care Unit.
“When we were in the ICU waiting room, they would stop by and visit us. It wasn’t like we were holding court…,” said Sue.
“Well, Mom was,” Jane pointed out.
“Yeah,” Sue nodded. “The older doctors would stop by and talk about our parents when they were younger. And it was really very…I hadn’t thought about this for a while but it was great!”
“It was great,” Jane confirmed.
“We were sort of nourished by it,” Sue said, crediting the ICU staff. “The nurses were so competent and so on top of things and wonderful to Mom, really tuned into her and treated her respectfully. They were wonderful to us.”
The level of care given their ailing mother prompted them to seek ways to show their appreciation. Sue found information on the BMH web site about the Grateful Patient Fund and the family requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to BMH in Helen’s honor because, “she felt strongly that there was great medical care there.”
The family also made a gift to the hospital to have a plaque honoring their parents placed by a tree planted in front of the hospital’s new addition. John had passed away in 1993 from Parkinson’s, leaving Helen to look after herself in the Guilford home they moved to after his retirement. Not that she would have it any other way, according to Jane.
“She was tough. She had a helper who came in once a week who would drive for her sometimes, but she would also drive herself sometimes,” Jane said. “When she would lose power she would fill her bathtub with water and fill jugs with water. She was like a pioneer woman. We admired her.”
And with that the two sisters agreed to stop by and look at the plaque after the matinee. Because this time it was about Mom.