Gabriele “Gabi” Bayer and her late husband, Martin, were both born and raised in Germany, but had to come to America to meet.
Gabi was 20 years old when she decided to take a chance and come to the United States. In the first few years, she learned English and became accustomed to American culture, but didn’t expect to find love.
“I met Martin in a German club,” Gabi recalls. “He was nice and funny, and we just hit it off. We always worked well together.”
Gabi and Martin married a few years later in 1959. They raised a son and a daughter, and the strong work ethic they shared kept them together for 60 years.
In addition to his family and love for the outdoors, Martin’s life was heavily influenced by Freemasonry. When the time came for the Bayers to plan for their future, there was no question about moving to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown.
They enjoyed their retirement together, but, four years after moving into their cottage, their lives drastically changed.
“Martin woke up early one morning, and I could tell something wasn’t right,” Gabi said. “He was disoriented, and wouldn’t tell me what was wrong. I was hoping it was something he ate.”
Martin suffered a severe stroke, which greatly affected his speech. He spent several days recovering in the hospital, but never fully regained his speech or the personality Gabi once knew.
“He was a proud man, so it was hard for him,” Gabi said. “Things went downhill pretty quickly.”
Martin also began suffering from dementia and moved to the Masonic Health Care Center at Masonic Village to receive the care he needed. Each day, Gabi would visit Martin. One day, she and the staff noticed he was starting to refuse to eat or drink.
“He just needed a lot of extra help,” Gabi said.
Fortunately, that “help” came in the form of Masonic Village Hospice. While Martin only received services for a week, Gabi appreciated how staff helped ensure Martin was comfortable in his last few days and hours.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through,” Gabi recalled. “I lost my mother and my father, but I wasn’t there day-to-day [during their passing].”
After Martin passed away in May 2019, Gabi grew closer to hospice staff.
“It’s wonderful that I can reach out and talk to Heidi [Young, bereavement coordinator],” Gabi says. “No matter what it is, we can talk about it.”
Gabi has also joined one of hospice’s grief support groups. She has the support of her family members, but appreciates hearing and learning from outside perspectives.
“It’s very helpful to listen to others and how they’ve dealt with death and grief,” Gabi said.
Gabi finds solace in remembering the many memories she’s made with Martin, as well as the loving father and grandfather he was. Last year, Gabi, her son, daughter and five grandchildren attended Masonic Village Hospice’s first annual butterfly release, where they released a butterfly in Martin’s memory.
“I would tell anyone to get hospice for a loved one who may need it,” Gabi said. “It really helps the caregiver and gives you support even after they are gone.”