This year’s Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal has gone digital, due to the coronavirus. Ahead of the digital appeal this weekend, 23-24 May, one local woman shares her story …
Myrna, aged 70, is one of those wonderful human beings blessed with a very big heart. A professional teacher for many years and a long-serving community volunteer, Myrna radiates enormous warmth and love and has spent her life caring for others.
Over these years, it has also fallen to Myrna to care for and nurse a number of her own family members who had become terminally ill. Myrna was married to Harry (a decorated WW2 veteran) and they shared life together but were unable to have children of their own.
Myrna picks up the story: “Around 18 years ago, we moved from Canberra to Queensland to look after my sister and her two sons, as her husband was working in remote areas. I’d prepare their breakfast, their lunch, cook their dinner and I did this for many years. Then my sister passed away from breast cancer.”
Around this time, Myrna was caring for her ageing mother when Myrna’s nephew (one of her sister’s sons) contracted cancer and required care. Sadly, both Myrna’s mother and nephew passed away. He was aged just 20.
“It was very sad,” Myrna says. “I had to arrange funerals one after the other – my sister first, then my mum passed away, and then my nephew passed away. After that we moved back home to Canberra (around five years ago).”
Illness now for Myrna and Harry had become very much a part of their life. Harry was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and Myrna had osteo-arthritis and high blood pressure and then also required a knee replacement. The cost of the move, combined with the costs of medication and treatment for both Harry and Myrna soon began to add up alarmingly.
“I got the pension and it all went to the rent and there was no petrol money, so I had to catch the bus, often in the rain, and with my knee replacement, it was hard,” she says. “$780 a fortnight went on the rent and I was only getting $950. We couldn’t even pay the telephone and the water bill and the power bill was getting up and up and up.”
Then, one morning, after Myrna and Harry had prayed for God’s help, there was a knock on their door.
“When I answered the door, the woman said, ‘This is the Red Shield Appeal Doorknock, would you like to help?’ and I said, ‘It’s me who needs the help!” Myrna remembers.
“I was joking,” she says, “but it was also true. We had worked hard all our lives, but it was a hard time after the move and Harry’s illness.”
Myrna says: “Every day was stressful for us, but we (had) battled through it.”
The doorknockers from Gungahlin Salvos accepted Myrna’s invitation to come in.
They then invited Myrna and Harry to The Salvation Army where they were helped with food and bills. Members of the local Salvos started regularly dropping around food hampers and bread. Myrna and Harry also began worshipping at Gungahlin Salvos Sunday Services and were overwhelmed by the support they received.
“I like the services and I like the spiritual upbringing and the closeness of the members of the church. They are always there saying ‘hello’ to you and just being friendly,” Myrna says.
Sadly, after 38 years of marriage, Myrna then lost her beloved Harry.
“I still love him you know,” she says with a smile. “I miss him so much! Never in our marriage did we fail to say ‘I love you’ before going to bed and then ‘I love you in the morning’.
“He worked hard, but we still used to help in several nursing homes and also gave some support to some people who were on the street. We helped people in some broken marriages, and they said Harry was like a father to them.”
After Harry passed away, Myrna’s Gungahlin Salvos family again rallied.
Harry’s funeral was held at Gungahlin Salvos and as Myrna’s financial situation became more challenging, she found practical and emotional support at The Salvation Army’s free Moneycare financial counselling service and No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) service.
Joi, The Salvation Army’s Moneycare local financial counsellor not only helped Myrna with budgeting, but also became a friend.
Myrna was unable to remain in a private rental on a sole pension, so The Salvation Army advocated on her behalf and secured public housing. Members of the Gungahlin Salvos helped Myrna with a garage sale and helped her move.
Moneycare was able to speak with Myrna’s utility suppliers and arrange a payment plan so that she could pay off unpaid bills, and also advocated on her behalf to assist with a bill for nursing expenses accrued during the last weeks of Harry’s life.
“The Salvation Army gave me a lift and it was really very helpful to me,” says Myrna.
“I now feel happy. I gave away some of our spare furniture to people who needed it when I moved and even lent out my car for a few months. I like to teach Sunday School and sing in the choir. I cook Filipino food for the transport drivers (since I recently stopped driving) and I even cook for the gardeners while they are doing the gardening. I feel very happy to be the person helping others again!”
The Salvos are going digital this year for the Red Shield Appeal and its easier than ever to volunteer your time and help raise money for those in need.
To donate, go to salvationarmy.org.au or call 13 SALVOS (13 72 58).
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