Lately I’ve been thinking about my friend Dena Allen. When we first moved to St. George and started at St. George Community Church, Dena was one of the first people we met.
Dena and I would talk for hours about many topics, but our favorite topic was about the Bible. Dena was a widow and she had one son named Howard. Howard passed away a couple of years before Dena did. Dena died on On Nov. 8, 2007 which was 9 yrs ago and she is dearly missed. There aren’t many at my church that remembers Dena and there aren’t many that she opened up to on a personal level.
Dena was a smoker and she wouldn’t invite people to her house because she was afraid of what they would think if they knew she smoked. I don’t think she understood that everyone knew that already because a non smoker can smell cigarette smoke just by standing next to them. Dena also had grey hair, but she had a yellow streak at the front of her hair lol. I told her that I am sure they know she smokes because of these two things. I also told her that if they want to visit her, it isn’t because of her smoking or not smoking. They are there to visit her, not her bad habit. I then told her that I had enough of my own bad habits. She was relieved and after that she didn’t try to hide the obvious.
After I got to know her I asked her why it was that she didn’t talk to people like she talked to me. I think I knew more about Dena that most people at church. They seen the Dena that came to church early on Sunday mornings. Dena was at every Bible study and she was the chairman of the Sunshine Team. What that means is that she would write letters and send cards to those who have birthdays, are sick, loss of a loved one and just because. That’s the Dena that most seen. But, not the Dena I saw.
The Dena I saw was a sweet lady who had a great love for the Lord. She knew the Bible inside and out, even though there were some topics she would get stumped on. I will be covering some of that in my next blog. Dena asked me a couple of years before she died if I would help her write her story so she could pass it on to her family after she was gone. Of course I said yes. I was honored to have been able to help her with that.
Miss Dena taught the 3rd or 4th grade for thirty plus years, she taught at Canton Elementary School in Pennsylvania. She loved learning. Dena’s faith was very strong and deep. Dena loved to educate and serve others. I have one of her Bibles and I love it. She had handwriting on most pages. I could tell what she was studying because of her little notes on the side.
Dena was married for about 44 or 45 years to Frank. I believe he passed away in 89. I never got the opportunity to meet him. I have heard good things about him. Dena also had a son named Howard, however he passed away a year or two before she did. His death broke her spirit. Because of her son Howard her life was troubled.
Some interesting things about Dena loved to do.
Her greatest love is the Lord. She loved to study the Bible. She loved to study anything that is related to her faith. She relied on God during her good and bad times. The reason her life was difficult towards the end is because her son Howard was addicted to drugs. He would harass her because he needed his next fix. He shot up Heroin. She would give him money because she feared him, but she loved him. I would think any parent would feel that way. She didn’t understand that by giving him money left and right that she was enabling him and putting a nail in his coffin. I tried to explain this to her in a way that wouldn’t scare her. How do you tell a mother who loves her only son so much that she wouldn’t give him money. Howard eventually died from his addiction. I know this sounds bad, but his death saved her life. Even though she didn’t see it that way.
As I was helping her write her biography, I was shocked with some of the things she was telling me.
- Dena grew up in Canton, PA. She had a number of brothers and a sister. Dena was the smallest of the pack. Her dad went blind when she was little. Which made it hard on the family.
- Dena loved to do genealogy. She had documents and such that blew my mind. She literally had an old trunk that was on the Mayflower.
- One day Dena’s dad received a telegram from the Army saying that her brother died due to spinal meningitis. Dena also possessed many documents that were related to the Mormon church. She did live far from where the Book of Mormon was transcribed. It was close to Manchester NY. Since she lived so close to the Hill in Cumorah . She told me one day that the Mormons would have loved to have had the original documents that she had. She even had an original Book of Mormon from 1837 and if I can read my scribble notes from some of our conversations it was published by a place or person with the last name of Pratt and Goodson and it was out of Ohio. Dena was interested in these articles and books because of where she lived and because she was a teacher. She loved history and felt it needed to be preserved. Even though she wasn’t LDS, she knew that all history was preserved.
- Dena and I would talk about what we would like to do for our church if we passed away or when we did. She did leave a good amount for my church. She tithed each and every week and she even made sure to have her final tithe of 10 percent of her estate to go to the church. She wanted to make sure that the money would go for something educational, but I’m not sure what it went for. Even in death, Dena made sure to do what God instructed her to do and for all of us to do.
- Scrabble was her game of choice. I always thought I was good at it, she was awesome. I guess she would have been better since she was a school teacher lol. I don’t think I ever won a game of Scrabble against her. I learned really fast to never challenge her. She was a walking, talking and breathing encyclopedia.
- Dena loved going on car rides. We would take her to Leeds where she use to live. She loved it. While we were out and about we would go out to lunch or dinner. I always laughed when she would tell me that she has watch her collateral since she had an issue with it. Dena was under 100 pounds soaking wet and I told her that she could live dangerously and have a piece of pie lol. She would then tell me, “I guess you are right.”
Dena had a really hard time sleeping at night. She told me that she never had that problem before, but since her husband died, she would lay awake for hours. Since I was awake anyhow she and I would chat. It would be anywhere between 1 and 2 in the morning before our conversations ended. When my mother in law came to live with my husband and I, she would have a hard time also. He mind would wander to when my father in law was still alive.
One of those conversations was about the Trinity. She and I would scour through the Bible looking for answers that satisfied our curiosity.
Oh boy could we go on about this topics for hours. We were looking though the Bible to find the answer. Both of us had the same problem when it came to the trinity. These conversations went on for hours. One night I told her that we should stop guesstimating because we should talk to the pastor. I can’t even explain the look on her face lol . That was NOT the answer she wanted to hear.
I told her that Ellis would be more than OK helping us with the dilemma. She said that she didn’t want to ask him because she didn’t want to sound stupid. She was intimidated when it came to asking about things in the Bible since she should know the answer. Especially since she was also a Sunday School teacher. I understood where she was coming from. I dropped the subject at that point.
I told Dena the way that I always think about the Trinity and if anyone wants to chime in, you can do that. But, I always thought about how we have God, who is well, God. Then we have Jesus, who is of God, but He is still the Son of God. Then you have the Holy Spirit which is of God and Jesus. So, I told Dena that in my mind it is like I am Jessica’s mom. She is my daughter and I gave birth to her. While I gave birth to her and we shared the same blood, she is still Jessica. She has her own personality, but she will always be of me since I gave birth to her. Then you have the Holy Spirit, which I have a hard time explaining that in my brain and so did Dena. I told Dena that maybe it isn’t really that important. Well it is, but that is one of those things that I just have to have faith in and know that however it works, it works.
Instead of us asking Ellis what it was that he meant during the sermon, we just put it at the back of our minds. But, the subject ate at both of us for a long long time and it does for me to this day. I wonder if others have this same issue with the Trinity. While I don’t have a problem asking my pastor questions, some people do have a problem doing that. If your pastor makes you feel stupid, maybe you should find a new pastor.
One of the things that I noticed with Dena and with many older people is that she had a hard time hearing. I have issues with this also. But, Dena wouldn’t admit that she couldn’t hear everything that was being said. This was in part why she didn’t want to talk to Pastor Keck. I will be doing a follow-up blog about not hearing conversations fully which causes a whole other set of problems such as getting only part of a conversation or not hearing complete words. This was the main reason for her not wanting to go to the pastor.
When I became the youth director at my church I started up a program called “Adopt a Grandparent.” When I worked at a care center in Illinois, I did this also. My daughters were the only children at our church. Eventually we ended up with about 30 kids and we would assign one child/teen to a senior citizen. Since I was already spending time with Dena, I assigned myself to her. It was one of the most amazing relationships I formed at the church. The youth at the church loved it as well. These seniors were able to share their life and experiences with the younger generation.
My church had many single ladies and gentlemen. Most rarely got to see their own grandchildren. So this was a way to help fill that void. Dena was telling me one day that the program made an incredible difference in her life. She felt like someone was listening.
My Challenge to You…
I would like to challenge anyone reading this blog to take a moment and think about those people in your church, neighborhood and so on to get to know them. Not only do they benefit, but so does the children.
Even if they are hard to understand and they are slower, your life will be enriched greatly. I wouldn’t change anything about my many hours spend talking to Dena Allen. When I think about Dena I think about how she blessed my life in more ways than I can count.
In my next blog it will be a continuance of this in a sense. But, it will be about is there anything that would keep you from asking your pastor a question? I have a poll going right now to see if people feel comfortable or not. Dena had a hard time because she didn’t want to sound stupid. When in reality it was because she was hard of hearing which prevented her from understanding the messages. So, that is the next blog post.
In closing I want to just add that it is important to listen to those who are senior citizens. I will carry Dena’s stories and her life history with me always. You never know what a person has been through unless you take the time to listen and learn.