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A story in honor and memory of my Aunt on her birthday
Had every intention sending a note earlier…unexpectedly, my energy was pulled to Aunt Mabel’s medical; a life-death thing. Ended up sharing days leading up to her birthday with her in hospital. Discharged back to her nursing home room Thursday only to be rushed back to hospital the next Monday evening facing emergency surgery. Very poor prognosis; she was told by surgeon if she lived, post surgery long term colon bag likely and 2-6 months on ventilator best case scenario. She had shared with me during one of my visits in the hospital the week before that she was already tired of too many months in a wheelchair unable to walk. Looking back maybe she knew then what was around the next bend. Her spirits were up and she talked about birthdays and good times with her roommate friend at the home. How you remember her is exactly who she was even those final two weeks, and especially the final days.
Mom, Dad, Nancy and I were with her in the ER when they told her the news. I was so proud of my family, her family that night. Mabel amazed me beyond belief. I suppose having to walk through this path once before this year with Uncle Eli (November thru February) gave us all the strength. Mom and Dad especially grew through all this being there every step with Eli and it was so apparent their growth now standing with steadfast love and support/nurturing Mabel and her choice.
This time around Mabel was blessed with excellent doctors and nurses. Mabel listened to every word, every detail medical presented, asked really good questions, then made her choice within five minutes and never wavered. Nancy and I were alone with her about fifteen minutes later in ER and we both agree looking back that the radiating aura surrounding her that we both witnessed; her attitude, words she spoke, confidence, conviction (true to her character as you know), something greater than Mabel and us was around. There was no doubt that this was to be her time.
Nancy and I agree we both sensed Grandpa there with Mabel as she made her decision. Who Mabel sensed or how much support she felt from them or us I can’t tell you. She never said. No need really. That she was supported was all that mattered. Her calmness and serenity told me all I needed to reassure my heart and calm my mind. There were too many signs, too many factors and coincidences that are unexplainable by any other means to not sense this as truth. It was eerie being in my space on my side standing there while time marched on and facts came in as our family There and my family here united hearts to support her.
Minutes after she made her choice her conversation to the two of us seemed “out of place”. To Nancy, “Your glasses are really tiny. Can you see out of them?” Nancy answered and smiled but I could tell she wondered why that question and especially why this time looking at her would Mabel notice such a fine detail when all just moments before had been such a massive life-altering choice.
We all just moved on to small talk, making sure she was as comfortable as possible, taking turns sitting with her, then letting her have some time alone. She wanted us to go home, get some sleep. Sleep wouldn’t come easy that night we all knew that so we huddled together in the waiting area and checked in on her from time to time. Well past midnight Mom and Dad drove home. Nancy stayed the night. I returned home to make sure Levi was taken care of and safe and returned to the hospital first thing that same morning.
Staff kept her surgery options open for the next 24 hours. Mabel was aware that each hour she waited reduced her medial chances of pulling through the surgery. Next morning, same choice. She wanted to get back “home” to her roommate and friend, Edna.
That night I went back down to nursing home to spend a couple hours. She was alone with Edna, Mabel watching TV, clicker by her side. I noticed once again that aura all around her. Given the choice, Edna had decided to stay in their room and face this together with her “best friend”. Memories flooded my mind as I sat in Mabel’s recliner looking at the TV and talking some. On my Dad's side, for all purposes in my life she had served the role of my grandmother, assuming the role at age 16 by raising the five younger children when her mother died. Sitting there with her just being, took me back to all the times when I was little when she’d babysit me and we’d watch together Petticoat Junction and The Jackie Gleason Show.
Thirty minutes into watching the show flashing on the screen I wake up to the fact that Mabel is watching an education-medical channel. I ask her if she’s really watching this show or what. Her response, “I always watch this show.” I say, “But Mabel you just came from a hospital.” Her response, “I love this show. I watch it ‘cause I might learn something.” Blew me away. One to three days from the end of her life and she knows it and she “may learn something.”
Wow!!!! So, need I say we watched how a surrogate mother was carrying a baby and the delivery…and I smiled.
That night I wrote this to remember this night and all the others I had spent with Aunt Mabel:
And so, I opened my eyes to the mysteries unfolding.
Connecting with people and the moment now
Trying to understand where I (we) had been
Recognizing that so much was changing
and had changed.
You moving on.
Me here to remain.
Calling arrangements were made for immediate family that Saturday. Funeral arrangements were made for Sunday at the nursing home so her friends back at “home” could attend.
Mabel had given me a shoebox of odds and ends years back (1977). Such a mixture of odds and ends, mostly papers I had no idea what to do with any of it at the time. When I asked she told me that I’d “know what to do with someday”. I did as I was told and all these years all items have stayed right where she packed them in that shoebox. The morning of her calling hours I received first word…the message came from There. As I was attempting to write a piece for her funeral the next day, I struggled being more drawn to the shoebox.
Three items in that shoebox Grandpa, from There let me know to put in the casket with Mabel. I guess he or she or both of them plan to go fishing in Canada with his Canadian Fishing License dated, May 23, 1964, a Canadian Fishing Guide (1964), and his glasses. I didn’t ask why. I just listened and tried my best to get the message right. (Grandpa died the year, 1964)
Back in June, 2004 I had given her a signed gift copy of Dear Daisy. It had been my gift to her and I wanted it to remain with her. Forever. She and Daisy always had a special bond and the book kept that connection of sharing the farm and life there together each summer. Then the question for calling hours, how to arrange, what page should the book be open to, and where to place the items from Grandpa. Nancy suggested Dear Daisy open to my childhood pictures page. Reading the words I had written on that page about childhood, all seemed fitting for this moment witnessing Mabel’s trust and openness to explore the next.
“Childhood is nothing more than, absolutely nothing less than, the courage to discover for the first time with innocence and openness, the faith and passion to explore the next, and the inner wisdom to sense the value of each moment along the path.”
I didn’t realize until I opened the glass case of Grandpa at the casket to place it near my book how the green interior of his case matched the book hardcover exact. Looked really nice. Classy even. Mabel was absolutely by far the most beautiful person I have ever seen laid out. Radiating youth, though her age nearing mid eighties; total peace, and I swear she was smiling, natural, not placed there. As for Grandpa, I don’t know, lost his glasses and needed his old pair to read my book? He and God only know. All I know for sure is I felt I was and had been a part of this story that connected our lives.
“Asleep, awake, by night or day, the friends I seek are seeking me. No wind can drive my baroque astray, nor change the tide of destiny. The stars come nightly to the sky, the tidal wave unto the sea. Nor time, nor space, nor deep nor height, can keep my own away from me.”
“And I will be with you forever, and ever, until the End, and then forever more.”
-God (as written and interpreted by the child, Janie)
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