Thursday, June 25, 2015

All men must die. And women too, I guess...

Death was busy in the past week or so.

My friend passed away, the one I stayed with on a long Saturday night recently.  And in typical me fashion, I missed seeing her before she went by about 45 minutes.

She was moved into a skilled nursing facility, thankfully, about a week and a half after I stayed with her. 3 days later, she passed on.

I was on my way to see her when she died.  I was disappointed that I didn't make it over to her after work the night before, as my plan was initially. And of course I kicked myself because I had every chance in the world over those three days, but I wasn't sure what the hours were that I could visit in the evenings and I was reluctant to find out. Saturday is always a better day. And of course, I laughed at myself. Because isn't that just like me to end up doing that.

I am honored to have had several days of time with her close to the end here. I met another friend who was headed that way and headed him off at the pass. We had coffee and talked for a good long whie.  51 years old, and 8 years of battling her cancer were finally over. But not without a hell of a good fight.

Well done, Good and Faithful Servant.

A lady from our church passed away the same day. This came as somewhat of a surprise.

Doug was her deacon, and he would visit after church when we went (which wasn't every week, but...) he would always make it a point to bring her the bulletin and any news. And on Wednesdays we'd get a nice thank you note in the mail. It always warmed my heart that she wrote thank you notes for a piece of paper and a five minute visit.

She was a lifelong resident of Newbury, MA, and lived in a sweet little house beside a cemetery and across the street from a church she'd attended since childhood. When that church changed philosophy (went from a "Christian" church to an "Earth Centered Kind Of Hippie Worship Church Which Didn't Mention Jesus") she started going to our church. It broke her heart to leave her church, but everyone loved her at our church and we all took good care of her.

Last year she moved into a nursing facility, with a gorgeous view and a giant solarium, giving up her little three bedroom historical house in Newbury MA and her lifetime of memories. It never felt like it suited her.

At the assisted living facility she often expressed how disappointing it was not to be in her house. Sure, they were nice. Sure, they took care of her needs. But she missed her house, and her things, and she wore a slight hang-dog expression when she'd gesture around the small room at her bed, her recliner, her bureau and the small bathroom.

Not quite the same.

The last time we saw her was a couple Sundays ago, and she had some complications medically, which she didn't want to discuss because it "wasn't lady-like" (she was very much the lady) but she did shrug and say "oh I may as well tell you..." I won't share it here with you, because you don't need to know.

She was fully dressed, coordinated, shod, perfectly groomed, and was waiting for her niece and grand-niece to come visit for the family reunion. I hope they were able to transport her there comfortably, and I hope she had a good time.

I didn't get the chance to ask her how it was.

Her funeral was on Wednesday morning June 17th, and Doug went representing us while I packed us up and got us organized for a trip west.

Mildred, "Middie," Grandma
Doug's grandmother passed away on Tuesday June 16th. Doug's sister had emailed me in the morning saying that she didn't think Grandma would make it much longer.

She was 97.

Over the past five or so years, every time we went to see her she'd cry as we were leaving and say "This is the last time I'll get to see you..." and I'd say, "oh Middie, you're talking foolish. We'll see you soon."

This is my biggest regret - that we didn't make it out there in quite a while to go and visit. I think it had been close to two years. But time flies and I can't quite remember.

I found out she and I have the same middle name, and I said to Doug "why didn't you ever tell me that her middle name was Louise?" And he looked at me and said "I suppose I didn't know that."

We stayed the weekend and helped clean out her room. A tiny little space that was packed with tons of things. Different than Janet's room at her facility, which was sparsely decorated and didn't seem to have a lot of things, Middie's room had tons of stuff in it. She had so much clothing. I took a Russian style faux fur winter hat that I'll wear with pride, and a dozen very fragile looking handkerchiefs. Doug and Jess laid claim to the weiner dog figurines. Grandma loved Dachshunds very much. When she moved into the assisted living facility, Jess got quite a few of the figures and cherishes them greatly.

She liked angels too, and people bought her angels. Bonnie kept trying to get us to take one, and to be honest I'm kind of creeped out by them. Now I kind of regret not taking one or two, just because they were hers, and she cherished them greatly.

I should cherish them greatly, because of her love. But I just couldn't.

There were these frog pictures that were in her bathroom for a million years. I remember seeing them in her house bathroom at the first place (the last house before the next two senior residences and the nursing home) where I met her. I kind of wanted them. But Doug didn't.

I laughed and said "come on, you want these! You took baths under these when you were like four! This is a big part of your history!" But he shook his head and quoted "A Mighty Fortress is our God" with the single line "let goods and kindred go."


Additionally, my friend Robin's mom died very unexpectedly. One day, she was at the playground with the grand children, playing on the swings and climbing the jungle gym. The following morning, she didn't wake up.

Robin said "I want that to be me. I want the last day I am on Earth to be a day where I'm playing and doing wonderful and fun things." How cool is that? Especially if you are 88.

So a lot of different deaths, and all of them women. Some deep in my life and some on the periphery. Long battles and short surprising ones. All told, Doug's stolen line from Martin Luther rings hard and true. But I wish I took those frogs.

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