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I'm back

For those of you who don't know through the internet grapevine, my mother passed away last Friday morning.

Life has been somewhat scattered since then.

After the decision had been made not to place the feeding tube, Dr. Ahmad had mother moved back to Manor Care, and I went up on Thursday night to arrange for hospice treatment for her, over and above the skilled nursing she still required for her medical situation. We all agreed that it would be a good place for her to be, because it was more homelike and less threatening than the hospital, and she had enjoyed her time there so much. So I sat with the hospice social worker and went over the logistics, as well as some of the things I had been feeling.

Before I left, I stopped in to see her, as she slept, and then drove the long drive home.

And before I even arrived back home, Paul had received a call from the nurse on duty. I called back to find that mother had needed suctioned, but that she seemed to be more comfortable after that. I asked, "So, are you saying it could be tonight?"

"Tonight or tomorrow," she replied.

I asked the nurse to call me if things took a turn for the worse, and I slept with the phone. But no call came that night.

The next morning, I went to my father's house, to sort through papers and get things together for the financial folks to get the hospice application sorted, and the call came in at about 10 that mother was gone.

I left my Dad with David and April (who had come in the night before, when I called them after speaking with the nurse), and headed back to Bethlehem to make sure everything was nailed down there. Paul drove us through the morning drizzle and I stayed on the phone, trying to get a hold of everyone who needed to know, including Jobe. The funeral home, various family members, etc. etc. etc.--all the administrivia. But most of what stayed with me was my own son's voice on the phone asking, "Mom, are YOU OK?"

He's grown up a LOT.

When I arrived, I went to the nurse's desk and, on the breast of the nurse sitting behind it, a tag bearing the name of the nurse I had spoken to earlier.

"You're Crystal."


"I'm Beth Roberts."

She immediately jumped up from her chair, ran around the corner of the desk and threw her arms around me. "I am so, so sorry," she said. "We loved your mother so much."

Soon there were others, all with hugs and all with the same sentiments.

They walked Paul and me down to the room, and there she was. Someone had left a window open, and the cool breeze came through the window and lent the room a refreshing, fresh-air chill, and the smell of rain. Paul and I sat there, holding hands, just being with her awhile.

The next thing I knew, the doorway to the room was filled with people, all carrying chairs, to set up in the room for the travelers coming later. And just as they all came with chairs, they all came with hugs as well.

The rest of the family arrived a bit later--getting Dad together was, apparently, something of a feat, getting him dressed and out the door taking a long time in his shock. But arrive they did--just as the man from the funeral home was getting ready to take her. I asked if he could unzip just her face, so that Dad could see her and say goodbye, and he did.

I have no idea what went through my father's mind as he touched her face and smoothed her hair and squeezed her arm in his goodbye. I can imagine, but I'll never really know. How does one really say goodbye, after 55 years?

And as we all sat down in the room, the room was filled with folks from the nursing home once more--with coffee and tea, with plates of warm cookies, with slices of pie, with a sandwich for Dad (which he actually ate most of--a great relief to all of us who had seen him eat little or nothing for days) and with a chaplin they had sent--a young woman who is a Moravian minister, and who was brilliant. She asked Dad open ended questions about their life together, and Dad opened up and told stories that even I had never heard. And there was much laughter, and drying of tears, and kindness.

I went to the desk to ask if I could get the coffee pot refilled, and to ask when we would need to vacate the room. "You stay as long as you need to. You stay all night if you need to," she said.

They were miraculous. And stay we did, until about 4:30, when Dad finally felt that he could.

At one point, Dad went out front to have a cigarette, and out rolled Charlotte. Dad had met Charlotte on the very first day Mother arrived there, so they were old friends. She's kind of a whifty old broad who has been there for about 10 years--a bit of a meticulously coifed kook with her wrinkled face painted as carefully as she can manage (and for all her care, she still looks like she applies her make-up on a city bus) and a penchant for feisty gossip and complaint. And she never got my mother's name right--she always called my mother "Theresa", for some reason. So here she comes, and she looks at my Dad and says, "Where's your Theresa?" My Dad looked at her for a long moment and said, "I lost her this morning." And Charlotte rolled her chair over next to him, begged a cigarette from him, and kept him occupied for the next 45 minutes, utterly kindly, their two gray heads bent over the ashtray, lost in a cloud of their own making, and speaking of things that only our elders know. She snapped out of Charlotte-world and spoke to him and listened to him, and I left, knowing he was in good hands.

When I went back into the room, the chaplin asked, "Where's your Dad?" And I said, "He's talking to Charlotte."

And she smiled. So did I.

This is going to come in fits and starts, as the whole thing is coming back and coming out of me like photographs in an album--little scenarios rather than a timeline. More to come.



Sep. 3rd, 2009 03:54 am (UTC)
I am so sorry for your loss....



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