By Lin Sue Flood
Photos courtesy of Hospice of the Valley
Mary Alice Warsco could no longer remember how to dress herself, make coffee, or even what she ate for lunch. Dementia made day-to-day tasks too confusing. But when reminiscing about her childhood farm in Michigan, the 92-year-old had perfect clarity.
During a recent visit with her Hospice of the Valley nurse, Emily Irvine, she shared in vivid detail a family hardship from long ago. One summer when she was just a young girl, her father and brother were seriously injured in a car accident and unable to harvest their fields of ripened crops. Suddenly, Warsco and her mother heard a distant rumble, growing ever louder. They raced to the front porch to discover a long line of tractors slowly making their way toward them. “I had never seen so many tractors in my whole life,” Warsco recalls.
The small town had banded together to do the harvesting. Warsco and her father were so overcome with gratitude that they sat on the porch and wept as the kind neighbors worked their fields. In a matter of hours, they finished the job and returned to their own farms.
“I instantly pictured in my head what this memory might have looked like for her,” says Irvine. “And I thought — a painting! So, I reached out to our volunteer department, and they found an amazing Hospice of the Valley volunteer to preserve this special memory on canvas.”
The eager artist was Mandy Richards, a Scottsdale resident who loves volunteering her time to visit patients and families. “I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get started!” she exclaims. “One of my favorite things about art is how it evokes a feeling. I was honored to create a way for Mary to visualize this touching memory.”
The artwork was framed with a descriptive label on the back so future generations would know the story behind it. When Emily and Mandy went to Mary’s Peoria home to present the painting, they saw her eyes light up… and then shine with tears of remembrance. To everyone’s delight, she immediately began telling the story again, this time holding Richards’ precious painting tightly in her arms.
“It felt almost sacred,” Irvine reflects. “Mary had lost so much of her memory, but she still had that one. These are the moments that make life and work very rewarding.”