When you’re a Deupree Meals On Wheels volunteer, you strive to serve every senior equally. But, invariably, one or two of them stick out as particularly special — they become not only our clients, but our personal friends.
For Deupree Meals On Wheels program coordinator Sue Susskind, one of those special clients was Mattie Luckett. She once told Susskind that we’d saved her life. Here’s why.
40 pounds and vitality gained
When Ms. Luckett was first referred to Deupree Meals On Wheels, she’d been very sick. Following several, intensive rounds of chemotherapy, she’d lost her appetite. She’d lost 40 pounds, too. Her doctor told her he was worried about her.
“I said, ‘You? I’m the one that’s worried!,’” Luckett told Episcopal Retirement Services in a 2015 interview.
(Sue Luckett Meals On Wheels Interview 4:33)
Ms. Luckett was unable to cook for herself, and her daughter reportedly didn’t like to cook. Her visiting nurse told her about Deupree Meals On Wheels and urged her to look into signing up for the service.
“That food’s not good,” Ms. Luckett protested.
“No, their food is good,” the nurse reassured her. “And they’ll bring it to you hot.”
So Ms. Luckett and her nurse contacted the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio, which arranged for her to begin receiving meal deliveries. She quickly found that the nurse’s recommendation had been a good one. She not only got the food she needed to keep up her strength — she enjoyed it.
“I always like the meatloaf with the brown gravy, and the Salisbury steak,” she said.
And even though she initially resisted trying the chicken salad (she preferred the tuna fish), Luckett laughed and said she eventually came around to love it, too.
The meal deliveries worked. In short order, Ms. Luckett had gotten back to a healthy weight. She was regaining some of her strength.
“Lifesaver,” she called Deupree Meals On Wheels.
“Best thing to ever happen to me, besides meeting this lady,” she said, nudging Susskind and smiling.
Ms. Luckett would often call to change delivery times. She had many medical appointments to accommodate, and we were happy to rearrange — and would always identify herself on the phone as “your troublemaker.”
Susskind would in turn playfully call her, “Ms. Trouble.”
But she wasn’t any trouble at all. She was a bright spot in everyone’s day: the kind of client who touches your soul, teaches you about pure love for others, and changes you for the better.
Remembering a special lady
Sometimes, despite doctors’ best efforts, illnesses win out. Journeys end. And this past February, Ms. Luckett succumbed to the cancer that had ravaged her body for more than six years.
But, right up to the last, she never let the disease break her mind or her joyous spirit. Before she passed, she was admitted to hospice. Her daughter called Susskind and asked her to come visit. Ms. Luckett wanted to see Sue one last time.
When she arrived in the hospice room, Ms. Luckett was “unrecognizable and incoherent,” Susskind remembered. Cancer had taken a severe toll.
Susskind sat and gently talked to her for nearly a half hour. She thought that Ms. Luckett couldn’t have recognized her. When she finally stood to go, she leaned over and kissed Luckett on the forehead.
“Ms. Trouble, I have to go, but I’ll see you again one day.”
And just like that, Ms. Luckett reached out and grasped Susskind’s hand one last time. Even in her delirium, she knew that her friend was close by. And she knew that Sue cared as much for her as she cared for us.
Who was saving whose life? Our Deupree Meals On Wheels deliveries may have given Ms. Luckett the strength to make it six more years. But her spirit renewed, and continues to renew, our strength to help others like her.
Did we save her life? She’d say so. We’d say that people like her — people who need our care, who cheer us when we see them, people in whom we see the difference we make — save the lives of all the clients we continue to help. Because people like Ms. Luckett are the reason we do this.
Rest well, Mattie. We love you.