Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ashes to Ashes

I got the call about my mother in the ER lwhile reading at the Word Fest in Albany. Tom kindly offered to drive me to the hospital last night, but I went home and took my own car. I accumulated my daughter, my two oldest grandsons and one girlfriend along the way and was very touched by the young ones desire to see the great-grandmother.
The whole cadre trooped in and gathered around her bed. She was breathing so laboriously that the whole bed was shaking, but she was awake and made the kids all laugh with her funny responses to our conversation. I found it very difficult and spent half of the visit in tears. After the long siege we have had with her, I thought it would be easy to just have her slip away and thought I wanted that to happen. Instead, I found it very painful to actually say goodbye to her, remembering her loving care of us and how sweet and funny she is.
The nurse Bob (who handled the invasion very nicely) said that they had removed an enormous amount of fluid from around her heart and she was breathing easier and her heart rate had gone down to a manageable level. Most Alz patients succumb to pneumonia, I know, and she has been battling it for most of the winter. The danger is in having her heart give out.
She took turns holding hands with each of us and around midnight we gathered ourselves to leave. Laurie and I lingered in her room, encouraging her to sleep and as she dozed off, she suddenly started singing softly "I loved you so, when we were a couple of kids..." and I wondered if she was dreaming of my dad. When we tried to disengage our hands, however, she held on tighter and said over and over, "Come back to me". My oldest grandson held me while I cried and we finally left. She did not leave us in the night, though, and is still there this morning. I am truly hoping it will not be much longer, but who knows.

Oddly enough, the day we buried my mother turned out to be one of the happiest days of my life. First, thank you, Dennis, for your thoughtful email about the event. And thank you to my wonderful poets who were there in body or spirit. Most of us gathered at my house, coming and going until almost midnight. We had pizza on the lawn and some of the neighbors stopped by. About the middle of the afternoon we had the brilliant idea to bury Arthur's ashes, which had been residing in the linen closet for a year. Josh and Zach dug a hole by a tree near the pond (yes, the one in my poem) and a dozen adults and 6 kids (well, not Bailey) all took a handful of ashes and sprinkled them in the hole. I said "Dad, we are giving you back to the ground you loved." Then Emily and Ryan and Egan piled the dirt back in and got stones and dandelions to decorate it and stuck in a stick to mark the spot. The kids were a delight and it was very satisfying. Only Cheryl did not join us. After the little ones were put to bed, myself and my kids and grandsons and my niece ate Joyce Schreiber's quiche and we all told family stories until we were laughing like fools. I am certain that my mom and dad are reunited wherever souls go and the day was an occasion for great bonding for the rest of us.

The Not-grieving Daughter

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