“There’s nothing wrong with you Madge!” the doctor told me. “You’ll live till you’re a hundred.”         

     “Thanks,” I said, in a disgusted tone.  Who’d want to live till they’re a hundred? But there was something wrong.  My memory was going.    

     Yesterday at church a visitor asked me, “Which ones are your grandkids, Madge?” Now that’s unfair!  How am I to know? 

“All the good-looking ones are mine.”  “You can do what you want with the rest.” I answered flippantly. 

     Since before Lenny (my husband) had a car crash where he was killed, and which nearly killed me, my memory was failing me.  That was seven years ago.  I got a huge whack on the head then.  It wasn’t the first time either.  When I was heavily pregnant with our third child, a car crashed into us, and I was flung out the door and unconscious for 3 weeks.  During that time, I delivered Robert.  Didn’t feel a thing! Easiest birth I ever had!  Fran explained to me that the X rays showed a lot of brain damage, both old and recent.  Perhaps that accounts for it.  

     I could hear them discussing me.  I was with Fran and her family.  My sisters and my son from the coast were there, and they were talking about me.  It was in the afternoon, that time of the day when I get fuzzy in the head and wanderrie and forget where I am.  I cling to Fran or one of the kids.   

     I could hear snippets of their conversation.  I’m always telling people that they don’t have to yellat me because I’m not deaf!  I overheard –

      “I want Mum to stay here with me.  I want to look after her.”

     “But you’ve got five kids, and they’re more than a handful!”

     “The offer of a bed in Niola [the Baptist Aged Care Centre in Parkes] has come too soon.  I’m not ready to let her go.”

     “But another offer may not come for a long time.” It will be too much for you. You’re barely coping now.”

     “Let’s take Madge and show her the home and the room and ask her what she wants to do.” Beth suggested.

     And that’s what they did.  They took me there and the staff greeted me as if I was the Queen!  Fran told me that the smell in the dementia ward was terrible – old urine! But I had no smell.  I told my family, “I think this is the place God wants me to be,” and they moved me in the next day.  I didn’t see Fran for a few days but when she came, she could hardly hold back her tears. 

     I’d always hoped I wouldn’t go like my sister Joyce.  Her whole personality changed when she got dementia.  She had to be put into a home and I heard she bit one of the nurses.  Beth assures me that that’s not what I’ve got.  “Yours is old age dementia.  You have a wonderful memory for many things.”  I accepted this and was comforted.   

     The activities officer took me up to the common room where several of us sat together.  I love socialising, and she knew I liked knitting, so she got me going on some squares.    

     “Tell us your story, Madge,” she asked.

      “Alright, here goes.  I was born on a stormy night, on 15th September 1922.  Three old maid nurses from St. Georges used to come and deliver the babies in our home.  The nurse would bathe me under the window, in the same room as Mum.  The nurse said to Mum, ‘I always bath the babies who have something wrong with them in front of their mothers.’

    ‘What’s wrong with her?’ she asked.

     ‘She’s got red hair.’

      “What else can I tell you?  My parents were members of St. George’s Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia in Castlereagh St, Sydney. Mum said it was not always free.  Dad was an elder there.  I remember thinking as a kid, ‘Why isn’t everyone in the world a Presbyterian?  Isn’t that the true religion?’

    “I remember the time when our mother was taking the nine of us kids on the tram from Burwood Station.  The ticket collector gave mum a handful of tickets and asked, ‘These all yours, or is this a Sunday School picnic?’

     ‘They’re all mine…… and it ain’t no picnic.’ Mum told him. 

      “I was brought up in the bathroom – solitary confinement in our house. Bob, the brother next to me, was the instigator of all the trouble in our family! He’d get everyone in trouble and walk away with a grin on his face. These things I can remember clearly – as if they happened yesterday – not near 90 years ago.” 


     I don’t know how long I’ve been here.  Fran came in today and we did our usual routine, which was singing hymns, and then she would start reading a passage from the Bible, but I’d chip in and recite it from memory. She then prayed for all the relatives.

     “When did you become a Christian, Mum?” she asked me. 

     “Every time there was a thunderstorm and lightning struck.” I replied. 

      I told her my mum had a family Bible.  I thought Bob had it now.  In it she’d written the date when each of her kids was born.  She’d also written the date when each of them was born again. “If you want to know when, ask Bob.”  Later, she told me the date next to my name was 19.10.33.


     When Fran came, we would often sing together number one in Alexander’s.  I’m singing it now.  “When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast….” I know all the words and love them, but especially – “He’ll not let my soul be lost, bought by Him at such a cost.” I cling to the One who clings to me.  He’ll take me safely home – what joy!

     She knew I loved quizzes.  She asked me today, “Who is your Lord and Saviour Mum?”

     “Jesus is my Lord and Saviour.”

     “What did Jesus do for you?”

     “He saved my soul.”


     One day this woman visited me.  She seemed to know me.  I thought I may have met her somewhere.   We sang and prayed together, and she asked me, “Mum, do you know who I am?”

     I thought for a while and with a smile I said, “One of the gang!”   Why are the tears rolling down her cheeks?


     Today, a lady with two girls dropped in to see me.  They held my hands and started singing, one hymn after another.  The words and tunes were all familiar.  I sang along with them, every word.  As they were leaving, one of them popped a chocolate in my mouth, then set the hymns to play and repeat on the DVD player next to my bed.

      She said, “I’m going to church now Mum. I love you. Jesus loves you.  Goodbye Mum.”

      With my mouth full of chocolate, I said, “Goodbye Mum.””

       “Say, ‘Goodbye Fran.”  

       “Goodbye Fran.”


     The next day Madge was fed her dinner and wheeled to the activities room to enjoy the sunshine and some company where she dropped off to sleep and never woke up.   

– Frances Nash remembering her godly mother, Madge Penny