Yesterday

December 08, 2006 by barbara

by barbara

David's 92-year-old mother entered hospice care two days ago. Norovirus has been running rampant in her nursing home. That, along with several years of steadily declining health, mounted a severe challenge to Marte's fragile body. Please read on.

We've heard immensely positive things about hospice. That movement seems to model that death with dignity (and without excruciating pain) can be more than a slogan. A new experience, for sure, since none of us has seen hospice in action.

We've been granted an exception to the "no visitors" mandate at the nursing home, in place until the virus subsides. It is, after all, an exceptional situation. And the staff loves Marte. Over the past three years, they have come to know her intimately, by every definition.

Yesterday afternoon, I popped in to visit her on my way home from a meeting. No one was with her when I arrived, but there already was evidence of hospice ministry to her. Low light bathed her room, which was unusually tidy. Marte was resting in her bed. Someone had trotted out her soft wool coverlet. Candidate for dry cleaning, and not such a good idea in a nursing home. But it's a lovely thing and warm.

Someone had helped her dress earlier in the day. She was wearing a raspberry pink top. A gift from David's brother and wife, I think. Her favorite string of beads. A touch of pink lipstick. White-grey hair combed neatly. She looked like, oh, at least 900,000 bucks, and so I told her that. She was so relaxed, she couldn't answer, thanks to a morphine-derivative, administered by someone. Nice to see her so comfortable.

I babbled a bit about family things. Fluffed her hair. Kissed her forehead. Held her hand, which as usual, was cold. Very bad circulation in these latter years. She has been perpetually cold, even in the super-heated environment of the nursing home.

The wool coverlet was raised up to the bare skin on her neck. I fussed with the sheet and the blanket to make it softer for her. And that is when I knew.

"Marte, are you there?" I asked, more of the cosmos than of Marte herself. I knew she could not answer. "Are you there?" I touched her face, her forehead, her arms. Some places cool to the touch, others still warm. Even so, I knew.

Dear readers, there is no profound wrap for this post today. I could, I suppose, do a treatise on bearing witness to death. On loss, on grief. On long life. On the end of an era, at least in this family. A litany of Marte's milestones. On hospice, though we never actually "saw" it. On nursing homes. On good deaths, if such there be. I won't, though. It's really not about me. But it's where my heart is this day. We loved her.

Posted in

Comments

LynnellMicklsen (not verified) | December 8, 2006 - 1:45pm

Thanks for this beautiful post, Barb and a reminder of how much we all need each other.

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Barbara Miller (not verified) | December 9, 2006 - 10:27pm

Symbiotic humans, I guess. Thanks.

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Susan Lenfestey (not verified) | December 8, 2006 - 1:53pm

I don't really know David, didn't know Marte, but this speaks to all of us who have been present at death, tended our parents, or are still holding their often chilly hands. You caught me offguard here, and I'm crying my eyes out over this beautiful simple post. I'm glad for Marte that you were there.

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Barbara Miller (not verified) | December 9, 2006 - 10:26pm

Thanks, Susan. Really and truly.

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mls (not verified) | December 11, 2006 - 7:29pm

Your message was beautiful. Your final words, your loving touch,
your just being there with Marte was very special. Barbara, in your heart and in your soul and when you least expect, your thoughts of Marte will make you ever more aware how precious life is and how important family and friends who share it with you truly are.

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Barbara Miller (not verified) | December 12, 2006 - 9:29am

" . . . when you least expect . . ." It seems as though that's the caption for life, doesn't it? Thanks, MLS. You're very kind.

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connie (not verified) | December 13, 2006 - 12:32am

Barb, A great gift was given you and how special for Marte that you were there as she passed. Her spirit was ever so close. And she was not alone. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

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Barbara Miller (not verified) | December 14, 2006 - 9:22am

Oh, Connie, how kind you are. Thank you.

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