Mary Dee died yesterday at age 80 at her home. Her death had been anticipated; hospice professionals had assisted her and her family over the past few weeks. Among Baptist leaders and church office staffs across Missouri, the use of her first and second names was sufficient to recognize her. By the time she retired in 2000 as assistant to the editor of Word&Way, she had given more than 40 years of staff service through the Missouri Baptist Convention. The last 30 were with Word&Way.
Her full name was Mary Dee (Proctor) Enloe, and she stayed in touch personally with scores and scores of churches, subscribers and other partners of Word&Way in the performance of her duties. The reputation of the newspaper was shaped in good part by the care she and others on our staff extended to constituents. Mary Dee believed in the mission of Word&Way and, as such, was one of its chief advocates.
If the editor — and she served three: Ross Edwards, Bob Terry and me — happened to be away from the office or unavailable, she dealt with issues in his absence. Over the years, she had earned that level of trust and responsibility. Her counsel was valued.
My friend and colleague was old school in that she didn’t mince words. You knew what she was thinking and why.
I visited her in the hospital recently, just days after she had been rushed to the emergency room with complications from treatment of her recently diagnosed Parkinson’s. She was taking nourishment and treatment via IVs. The day I visited her, she apparently was feeling a little better, and she kidded with her family that was gathered around.
One of the first things she told me was that she didn’t want to be confined to a wheelchair or bed and have to live with all those tubes attached to her body. “That’s not living,” she said with conviction. She had mentioned that the next day would be important because she and her family faced some decisions. She did not elaborate.
Word came the next day that her physician sat down with her to look at options. She would have to rely indefinitely on the IV — “those tubes” — if she were to survive. Otherwise, she would die.
Mary Dee had already made her decision, and I understand she responded without hesitation that she did not want to be kept alive by such means.
This did not mean that Mary Dee was taking the easy way out. She couldn’t swallow, so she took no nourishment. The only water she had received was to wash down medication to address pain and to help her sleep at night. She was able to communicate clearly almost to the end.
Mary Dee’s decision was courageous and certainly not a last-second one. I believe she discovered was the will to die the way she lived — with dignity. My sense is that living with dignity and dying with dignity are related. This described Mary Dee Enloe.
Without a doubt, Mary Dee had communicated her desires to her family. She had consulted with her Heavenly Father as she made her final medical decision.
Over the past three weeks, Mary Dee had systematically visited face-to-face with dear friends, with the families of her four children and her grandchildren. All said their goodbyes, a blessing that is not always possible when we lose a loved one. As in most of her life, she continued to move confidently to her eternal reward and is enjoying it today.
Condolences to Mary Dee’s family.
(A memorial service has been set for 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1, at First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, Mo. A visitation will follow from 4-7 p.m. The family requests that expressions of sympathy be made to Word&Way, First Baptist Church or Hospice Compassus.)
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.