When I first moved out here to the Boston area~ I thought I would live with my former brother in law and niece for a month or so till I got on my feet unaware of how much more expensive it is to live here. So I set about finding another temporary living arrangement~ I ended up moving in with complete strangers Marion and Julian. They opened their home to Lucy and myself and didn’t really ask much from us. When Marion was showing me the bed room and how one of the sky lights opened, thinking to myself well that’s nice but I won’t me here when it comes time to open it. That’s was 3 years ago.
Marion was in her 70s. She had short term memory loss from dementia. She laughed easily and I could tell she had a quick mind and liked things to be a certain way. This I discovered the first night I moved in and we were making a bed together. I am not so particular~ in fact many would say I am very carefree. Those first few months were not easy. I was embarassed I had to ask for help, but Marion and Julian were patience with me and Lucy. I got the flu~ first time I had thrown up in over 20 years. Marion and Julian were nice enough to take care of Lucy. This was also the winter of 10 feet of snow. I was also rather sad about the loss of my former home and former life. Now I was a dog walker, substitute pre-school teacher, odd jobs lady and a bit of a misfit. But we got into a groove.
One morning, I was just sad thinking about all my loss, missing my sister and mom. I attempted to put on a happy face and sat down to eat breakfast with Marion. Before I knew it ~ we were laughing. That was the thing she laughed easily~ a lot like my sister. So Saturday mornings, she and I would watch youtube videos of kittens, puppies, political jokes and anything else I could find. We shared photos of our lives. She told me what it was like growing up in Brazil and what it was like when she first met Julian. And we would laugh~ I remember telling her on that particularly sad morning~ thank you for lifting my spirits.
Our third summer together, I could tell Marion was starting to struggle more. Lucy would be reluctant about coming upstairs to bed if Marion were still awake. (Julian is an early morning person ~ Marion was a night owl.) Marion seemed more forgetful and confused. She and I went to the movies, I didn’t want to drop her off while I parked the car for fear she would wander off. When Mark and I returned from our vacation~ I noticed there was a real change. Julian told me it was like no one is home. She wasn’t on her computer or working puzzles. She seemed content to just do “nothing”. Julian thought maybe she had a stroke or something. But it was only the dementia. The family then went on vacation to Vermont. When they came back~ things had really changed. Marion struggled with basic care and was able to come down the stairs with three of us helping her. That was the last time she slept in her bed upstairs. Julian called hospices and got visiting nurses to come in to help. He got a hospital bed and wheel chair. Marion’s food was cut into bite sizes so she could fed herself and then needed to be fed. But it seemed to go quickly, very quickly. Her body was stiff and if she grabbed a hold of your fingers or shirt sleeve you had to pry her fingers off. But Julian had musician friends come and play live music for her and often played youtube videos of concerts or operas she enjoyed. The night before she died, Julian had some friends from Boston Baroque come in, as Marion listened to the music you could see her visually relax her body. Her breathing was much more labored, I recognized the signs that the end was near. I went out that night~ and told Mark I didn’t think Marion would be with us much longer. When I came in I went and sat with her as she slept and had labored breathing. I pulled the covers upon her to make sure she was warm enough. I told Lucy she could stay with Marion if she wanted.
The morning of Marion’s passing, the visiting nurse and Marion’s daughter were clean Marion. But Marion’s body was shutting down. Ethel called her siblings and told them the end was near and that they probably wouldn’t make it home before she died. Ethel moved her phone to her mother’s ear and let both of her siblings say some words to their mother. Ethel asked the visiting nurse to leave us alone with Marion. (I was secretly afraid she would ask me to leave too and quite relieved when she didn’t. ) We gathered around her Julian by her head-on the right side with Ethel holding her hand and Lucy and I on her left and we said, goodbye. As far as death goes this was a good one. Marion didn’t linger too long to be an emotional drain on the family but also gave the family a little amount of time to prepare. I hope I can go like that. In so many ways Marion’s death was healing for me. I wasn’t with my mom when she died. I felt like I was able to tell my mother goodbye too.
#death #sayinggoodbye # healing