Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Memorial Service

Another stroke in the bathroom and she stares blindly at the wall. I call her name and she doesn’t respond. We had such a great day together. I pushed her through the flea market and we Christmas shopped for family. A young man gave her a ‘Million dollar’ bill to invite her to his church. She was so excited to have been given such wealth. We went to dinner at a local Denny’s, which was followed by a tiff in the bathroom. When she realized that we were having words, she handed me her Million dollar bill to just forget about it. Now she can’t even recognize me—her only daughter.
I call for my roommate to get her to the Jeep and rush her to the hospital for help. I knew that I’d gotten her there in plenty of time for them to reverse the stroke, but why were they taking so long to do anything?
After a week of no response, they call to ask me if I want to resuscitate her or not. “What?” In the year she spent with me, we NEVER discussed this. I could only say what I would want. ”No, do not resuscitate.”
My next conversation was about putting her in a nursing home to live out her days on machines. A friend suggested that I call Hospice and bring her home. On New Year ’s Eve, she was brought home to her family and cat friends. She was so doped up on morphine she didn’t know where or who she was. The Hospice nurse kept giving her more and she kept breathing slower and deeper. I went to bed with the promise that she’d call me if anything changed for the worse.
I slept for about an hour before my grandson came and called me, “Come quick, Grandma, she’s dying” I ran to the den and watched as life was gradually slipping away from her.
I woke my daughter, who was sleeping nearby, and called her caregiver to join us. They got there in time to be with her before she crossed over to the other side. My daughter played Amazing Grace on the computer while I saged her. We spent several hours with her before the men arrived to take her away. It was bittersweet.
As much as I would have liked to take her back to West Virginia and given her a traditional funeral, funds would not permit it. We had her cremated instead. Since my grandson wanted to go, we waited three months to take her home. (This was self fulfilling prophecy. I used to joke and say that I was going to arrange her late arrival at her own funeral because she was notoriously late for everything.)
My mother loved ‘paink’ and we asked everyone to wear pink in her memory. Just in case we provided little pink rosebud corsages for the guests. There were 80 pink roses in eight different vases because no two decades are the same. One single rose was placed in a heart shaped vase next to her picture to represent the one year she spent with us. These were the only flowers at the service.
When I looked around, there were only 27 guests, comprised of family and a few friends, many of which were mine. I was stunned that the attendance was so low for a woman who spent her entire life trying to please the townspeople. She had refused to come live with me in Florida because she didn’t want to leave her friends. The time she spent with us was the happiest of her life, but it just didn’t last long enough…

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