Saturday, November 24, 2012
The Greatest Gift
One of the side effects of our living in Colorado and so far from my natural family in Maine was their inability to help us. Oh, we got the calls and cards and gifts by mail, but the eye contact, hugs, and arms around the shoulders were not possible. We were struggling alone and they knew it.
We played the balancing act of trying to keep them informed but truthfully, it was hard for them to perceive just how disabled Susan was because her posts, blogs, and phone calls were always so positive. She was absolutely going to beat this and live to a ripe, old age and wouldn't ever consider the alternatives. And that was the message she delivered.
My sister Eve had mentioned to me that when we were at the end and needed help, she would take a week vacation and come to Colorado. And then, we got an idea. She had some time, I had some Southwest credits and found a reasonable flight from Boston. We discussed if it was too soon? Should she wait and come later when Susan was at the very end and help was more needed? But she and Joe decided that it was best to come while Susan was still pretty good and could enjoy a visit. So it was done and Evie was coming to Colorado on Saturday, November 17th (Thanksgiving Week) and leaving a week later on Nov 24th. She had a long day getting from Burnham to Boston, then a long flight and then the drive from Denver to Colorado Springs. Terri, our upstairs neighbor insisted on picking her up and Evie dragged through the door about 11pm. She was exhausted but with us safe and sound.
Evie was brainstorming what to do while with us, how to make her time count. We discussed that Susan was deep
ly into reminiscing and story telling. She wanted to hear about the lives of those she loved and hear their stories. So we did a good bit of that and Evie bought some arts and crafts do do with us. She brought the beginnings of a wall quilt with painted hand prints; a book for Tan, and fresh energy. Mostly Evie brought strength, stability, perspective, and support to our exhausted and sad little family, She did errands with me, lots of dishes; and organized my cupboards and closets with an admonition to keep them that way, Her experience in lifting and turning disabled persons was enormously helpful as Susan was so helpless at that point and everything we did was difficult. Even meeting her physical needs and tasks so simple as changing the bed were complicated. Evie pitched in with cheerfulness and as I said before, fresh energy, We did get out to the Garden of the Gods and Glen Eyrie for part of an afternoon. I was happy to show Evie part of the beauty of the region. It was a good week.
Thanksgiving was an adventure but not especially in the good sense. We got the dinner cooking and we all decided that Susan would get dressed and up and out of bed for part of the day. That took unbelievable amount of effort and when we got her out to the living room she wanted to eat. Then. So weI fixed her a plate and she did the best she could. We got dinner on the table for us and just sat down to eat when she needed to go back to bed. Then. So, we left our dinner and got her to bed and brought our plates into the bedroom to be with her. It was all good.
Friday, we got a visit from the Hospice physician who spent some time reviewing Susan's records and did a physical assessment. He frankly felt that she was in reasonable condition. We were managing her well, keeping her nourished and hydrated and meeting all of her physical needs as well as we could. Evie and I sat in the living room with him and he stated that if all went well, we could hope she would be with us through Christmas. We accepted that word with just that - hope. But it wasn't to be.
Evie left on the next day, Saturday. Headed back to Maine in another long, exhausting travel day, Terri insisted on driving her back to the Denver airport and in exchange for that effort, I made her a chocolate meringue pie. Evie mentioned to Terri something to the effect that leaving like that (knowing she would never see Susan again) was one of the most difficult thing she had ever done. It was truly bittersweet for each of us.
Evie thoughts were prophetic as Susan died only three days later yet even then we were blindsided by how swiftly it happened at the end. I was stunned at how timely her visit was and how important it was that she listened to that little voice and made the trip when she did. I was likewise stunned at how her trip, travel and time bolstered us and in no small way gave us a shot of courage just when we needed it most. Evie's presence at our darkest and saddest time was the greatest gift I have ever received. I will always be grateful for my loving and giving sister,