A grateful daughter reflects on her father’s care

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Benny Sauls

By LANCE CRANMER                                         LCranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org

Each morning, Benny Sauls left his apartment, went downstairs and socialized with the staff and the other residents in his building.

“He was an interesting man,” said Jenny Cotton, Benny’s National Church Residences Service Provider. “He would come down every morning just speaking to people and didn’t have a care in the world.”

Sauls and Cotton met when Benny arrived at Vintage Crossing, a senior living complex in Cuthberth, Georgia, where National Church Residences is not the building owner, but instead staffs the facility with a Service Provider.

On Tuesday, January 6, Cotton remembered Benny making his usual morning rounds.

“He came down here and sat down and wanted to talk. I asked if he wanted to call his brother and he said, ‘No, it’s too early. I’ll wait,’” Cotton said. “He loved to eat. He was skinny. Looked like he didn’t eat at all. But he had a big appetite. And he liked to cook. That’s why he set off the smoke alarm all the time. The fire department knew him well.”

On this morning, Benny was hoping his brother would bring him a meal, but he was willing to wait until a little later in the day. While he waited, Benny went back to his apartment.

“Looked like he had just gone upstairs to sit down,” said Cotton. “He had a brand new recliner he bought from the furniture store here, but he’d always rather sit in his old broken-down chair. And that’s where his brother walked in and found him.”

Benny Sauls passed away that morning at the age of 66. He spent his final three years in the care of Jenny Cotton.

It was Cotton who had to break the news over the phone to Benny’s daughter, Nicki Bentley, who lives in Tennessee.

“As hard as this call was to receive, she was so compassionate and was able to give me the news about my Daddy without making me feel as though he was just another resident who had passed,” Bentley said. “She truly cares about her residents.”

After a long span of not being able to visit with her father, just weeks earlier, Bentley brought him to her home to spend Christmas together.

“At Christmas, my Daddy came to stay here in Tennessee with me, and the only person he wanted to say Merry Christmas to was Jenny,” Bentley said. “He thought a lot of her and made the comment she always looked out for everyone and never took time for herself.”

Cotton said it was important for Benny to get a few things he wanted taken care of before he made the trip to Tennessee – a trip he’d delayed a few times in the past.

“I had set up for him to go to an eye doctor. He needed a cataract off,” said Cotton. “One thing about him, he always just wore old blue jeans and old tennis shoes. But that morning he’d put on dressier shoes and he’d gone out to wait for the bus. But the transportation never showed and he came back in and had me call them to complain.

“Later he told me, ‘The best thing about them not showing up is that now I can go take off these shoes!’”

When the doctor’s visit fell through, Cotton said Sauls was suddenly excited to plan his trip to see his daughter in Tennessee.

“Just like he knew something,” Cotton said. “This was going to be his last chance.”

Not long after returning to Georgia, Benny passed away in his favorite chair.

Since then, Bentley said Cotton stayed in touch.

“She has made a point to call and check in with us. She was the only one from the apartments who came to Daddy’s viewing and funeral even though it was in a different county and after work hours,” Bentley said. “I am thankful she was there, I know Daddy would have wanted her there.”

Cotton remembers Benny as a well-liked man, who could occasionally be trouble, but was always fun.

“I got a couple of (marriage) proposals,” she recalled. “He probably didn’t remember.”

Bentley remembers Cotton as a caregiver who was always friendly, compassionate and caring toward her father.

“She always made my Daddy feel welcome in her office and when he would set off the fire alarm or do something he should not have, she would call me and together we would talk to him,” Bentley said. “She has so much concern in her voice for every person I see her with, especially the elderly, and I am thankful she was a part of our lives the past three years. I know Daddy is gone, but I also know that he left this world knowing that Jenny Cotton was an amazing woman, who went above and beyond for him, as well as every other person in the complex.”

(Cranmer is the Media/Public Relations Specialist for National Church Residences. Contact him with a story that you would like to share at 614-273-3809)

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