Tag Archives: death

Answers and Death

My mother died nine years ago this month after a two-week stay at hospice. She was hauled in by my sisters by ambulance to the hospital across the way and told she needed another surgery. She said no. Hospice was run by her pain medication specialist and they treated her very well. All the kids were there every day, all day except lunch time when she was bathed so we went out. By the end she weighed about 47 lbs. and had enough morphine to kill a small horse. But she carried on.

The “kids,” four of us and my husband, had an all-night disagreement about whether to allow a priest to come in for last rites. I advocated for it, they disagreed. I believe my husband wisely was silent in the matter. They finally agreed that if Mom wanted it, she could have it. First thing next morning I asked the hospice chaplain to ask Mom. I said she never liked me very much and I would rather it come from a neutral party. Mom said yes.

The night before, we were having a glass of wine and my brother was sipping a Guinness when we agreed. In order to lighten the mood I pretended to be a Father McGuinness (just because of the beer) with an Irish lilt. None of us are Catholic and no-one knew any priests out there.

In the hospice room I left to use the facilities down the hall and my name was called out, by a priest. He said I’m Father McGuinness. OMG. I had no idea who they’d send! He turned out to be her parish priest, right down the road!

Dad was very ill but still in good spirits when I last saw him. He died over the holidays. We swapped stories for days. I think he knew what was in store for him and when his partner of 25 years was out of the bedroom for a few moments he asked me about Mom’s last days. I started telling him but did not wish to talk about my mother in front of her lest I offend. I got a quarter way through the above story and she came back in. I said so that’s enough of that story! What do you have for me?

I regret that I could never give him the information he wanted.

It’s funny that my husband is a pallbearer at many family funerals yet he does not want to be around when a pet dies. I’ve never been a pallbearer but have held my pets as they died.

When Mom died at 4:00 a.m. my time I awakened the same moment, 1,500 miles away, just jumped up in bed. I got dressed and took my phone and the dog for a long walk and awaited the call which came about two hours later when my sisters got there.

I tried to go to Thanksgiving last year and my brother said no. “He is no longer the man you knew, the father you knew.” It’s a slippery slope when you lose your parents.

Dad died at 4:00 a.m. in December 2016. I got the call a while later. I took the same old dog out. Ran into the concierge and told her. She sent my Three Musketeers (I’m their D’Artagnan now) to console me. At eight Ed came over with two red roses and a note, tag team V showed up and “allowed” me to cook him eggs and bacon and toast, then R showed up and admired Dad’s art work. Yes, Dad took up painting at age 80. All I did was frame them. My husband was 1,500 miles away that day and for the funeral so it was good to have my buddies around, Athos, Porthos and Aramis.

My dear dog and I are probably next. I would rather focus on other things. Dee


Docs and Codes

I went through a lot helping spay/neuter 2,500 feral cats, many more now since I moved to a place where they shoot cats and ask questions later.

As head of Transport I made sure the cats got down the line from tipping (tip the right ear as these cats are smart enough never to be trapped again and caretakers know which ones had already been done), so ears and vaccines. At the end of the line was fleas and combing. I had to make sure the cat did not awaken during that time before he/she was put in a numbered crate. We took good care of them as I had crate cleaners pre-surgery and breathers post-surgery. Good folks.

If the tag came out with a code for tapeworms I knew the docs or ER would take care of it. If I found it I just brought the cat back into the OR to document the issue so ER could issue the drug. Docs asked how I knew a cat had tapeworms. Little pieces of rice that move. After a couple of months they believed me and signed the order. This is the only time this cat has to be healthy so if he/she has any type of worms it is the time to fix it.

I quickly learned all the codes I had to transmit to ER and Transport and Breathers, they made rounds and made certain they were breathing until they awakened from anesthesia. I made my own wake-up list on my computer so they could check a form so they knew one had not awakened as yet (extra care) and another was just taking a nap.

Two stories, sad and scary. I’ll do scary first.

An eight-week old kitten came out of surgery and was barely breathing. ER was a van. I climbed in and had to give him slight acupressure until he was breathing on his own. I called for a volunteer to get his crate by number and lifted him into it. He had extra breather instructions to keep a close eye on him and he was OK.

The saddest was when I saw a Dr. code I did not recognize. HBC. I asked ER what it meant. She said Hit By Car. The docs did everything they could do but he didn’t make it and died in the van. We all cried. Fellow volunteers took photos that day, one of my butt reaching down to check on a cat before we had tables (made by volunteers, more like folding sawhorses with plywood). Heaven will bless them for that gesture. The other was of the cat, hoping for the best and not getting there that day. We did make a great difference but it was so sad to see one go.

Often when a family member is ill and actually has health insurance and is in hospital or hospice the best thing you can do is be there. Years ago my mother had cancer surgery and my new husband and I flew out to see her. We walked into the room after she had dismissed us over Thanksgiving then the next day because I got the flu and my dear husband said, after a couple of years, hello.

He changed the subject. He was not talking about her cancer, but about his father and selling the dairy and starting the ranch. He left to use the restroom and she said the nicest thing she ever said to me, “he’s a sweetheart.” I know, mom, I married him. She appreciated that he told her stories from a kind of life she’d never lived.

Be kind. Back up your beliefs. Love your family and friends. Cheers, Dee

Crossing the Street

I’ve always thought I’d be there to assist with Zoe’s demise. Now I am thinking about mine.

What if we’re on a walk and I collapse? Zoe is 90 in people years and doesn’t know how to dodge a car or cross a street, even on the faded crosswalk I pioneered between city and county.

Do I need to really teach her how to cross the street in traffic? No. She won’t learn on the farm and those pickups go fast out there. Forget here, state law says stop and drivers only pick up speed and honk the horn at pedestrian crossings. Get to that meeting on time, bud, no matter how many seniors, pedestrians and dogs you need to run over. Thanks for your law-breaking nastiness. I hope your vitriol fuels your work day.

My guess is that Zoe would stay on leash and by me until someone takes me to the hospital or morgue. Then, if not the morgue, I need to take care of her. I need alternatives to take care of her if I am incapacitated and more so if I’m dead.

I know she will stay by my side, on leash, until someone finds us and calls 911. Protocol? My husband is ICE. In Case of Emergency. Problem is that when I take the dog out, I never take my phone. That must change.

These years I’ve concentrated on potential Zoe incidents, not mine. What happens if something happens to me and I can’t help her if she doesn’t know how to cross the street and be a Lassie saying “Timmy’s in the well?”

It’s a troubling thought. Perhaps I should teach her how to cross the street by letting her decide, not telling her it’s OK to go. It’s always tough for a “mommy” to let go. Dee




Sitting and Waiting

My godmother and aunt died ten years ago. My mother died seven years ago. There is one member of their immediate family to carry on, and she does, day to day.

I’ve told you of a week at hospice with Mom. I want to tell you something else about hospital protocol. The hospice folks were great with Mom. I couldn’t have asked for better care.

When we arrived I was Nathan’s Mom. My indoor cat had gotten out and went to a cat party down the street in my neighbor’s home. He got pneumonia and also had cardiac problems. I brought him in and I was his mom for 13 years since he was five weeks old.

I didn’t know and don’t know how to wipe a laptop except Control C. I stayed up in the lobby all night writing, about him and other things. That laptop was old and not cleaned before giving it away. All I know are the thoughts I had on that uncomfortable bench at four in the morning.

At daylight I was called my name, not Nathan’s Mom. That was a sign that he was headed for euthanasia. A doctor asked to meet me outside to let me cry. But the fact that the hospital no longer called me Nathan’s Mom told me he was no longer an individual, the Burmese cat who never let me get in the last word. Destined for death and I had to make the decision, forthwith.

I held him before, during and after. He sent a peace through my body to let me know he was OK and it was my duty to keep his spirit alive. To this day, I tell people about the wonderful spirit and words he had and how he challenged me every day and I never got in the last word.

Be with your people, your pets, everyone for whom you share a responsibility. Make a casserole for the wife across the street who just lost her husband. Share cookies with the family that just moved in next door.

No-one helped me. I had a network of friends and neighbors and no-one helped me with my mother or my old cat. Luckily my husband was there for Mom, and said at Last Rites “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of her.” And he has.

All I can say is to hang on, remember the good things. look to friends and family and get through it. And don’t worry about getting in the last word. Nathan taught me that. Dee

Jim and Buck

These are two of my favorite people that I did not get to visit on Memorial Day. They bet on The Game every year for a bottle of Meridian Chardonnay, under $10 at the time.

Buck was quiet, but when he spoke it was witty and sharp, as was his wife, the delightful S. They were getting older in years so we helped out with groceries, water bottles and trash. They were very interesting people, she was a diplomat’s daughter and they spent their lives in service to our country.

Jim was a quiet man about his military experiences and now I understand why. I love his wife and sons and grandkids and we keep in touch. Yes, we flew in for the burial ceremony. She thinks of me as her daughter and she’s my other Mom. He was a sweetheart underneath. His sons call me “Sis.”

Buck is buried at West Point. Jim is buried at Annapolis. They both had storied careers of which I will never know. They were good friends. Jim married us, no, not on ship. On land. They are all wonderful folks we met at our “dog park.” We kind of took it over after the kids left at 4:00 in the afternoon.

Widows with Bichons and Yorkies, Labs and Whippets and Collies… congregated every day. I never would have met these friends if it weren’t for our dogs. But evil entered and some days they had three Animal Control trucks across the grass that caused $200,000 of damage to the water pipes, to arrest us.

I spent six years trying to get legal leash-free areas in our parks and only got a few, certainly not ours. I am an advocate of leash-free areas for responsible dog owners and well-behaved dogs. I will be one for the rest of my life.

Meetings days, eating into my work schedule, talking to council members and their staff, evening meetings nearly every night hurt my dog, who died before the proposal was passed.

Jim and Buck and their dear wives always kept me grounded no matter the attacks. The four-person opposition sent in spies and took photos of us walking our dogs at six in the morning. They mainly won, especially in my district, apparently greasing palms beats thousands of citizens. The opposition now has two 1/3 acre mud puddles in my old district with no grass and one can’t even throw a ball for a dog.

We moved from there years ago but I’ve dear friends who live there and elsewhere who espouse this cause. Again, I partially failed but they were an inspiration. They helped me grow up. I was a dreamer, now a schemer? I read people well, and know when someone is going to kick me or pick my pocket. Well, maybe not the pocket part, but I do buy better purses so it will be tougher to steal from me. Plus locks on backpacks overseas, especially London.

Jim and Buck and their spouses helped me be a better person. For that, these military heroes will always be men of honor, courage, fortitude and love for their families. I will visit them before I die. Dee

ps The neighborhood bought my dog a tree years ago, in her park. I checked it out on GoogleEarth today and it’s doing well. She was an abused dog by a deputy sheriff and I rescued her from the shelter. She was afraid of men (especially in uniform) and children as neighbors used to throw rocks at her. Before she died every tot lot kid and moms loved her and called out her name. It was heartbreaking to see her die, but I think telling Jesse and the kids at the park was worse, D

One View

I will not miss. For most of the past 13 years I’ve been blessed with constant views of parks, wildlife, mountains, skyscrapers or ever-changing lakes.

There is a rehabilitation facility up the street that I can see from our windows. People there say they occasionally admit a young person who has been in a catastrophic automobile accident, but mainly it is an “old folks home.”

I’m known to get up in the middle of the night and read the news or write. Tonight is different. Not only is my husband two thousand miles away, I’ve moved my office to another room, one that I’ve rarely spent more than a few moments in to dust or vacuum or make up the futon for guests.

A short while ago lights awakened me in our bedroom. Three ambulances with flashing lights were just up the street. Then there was one. No flashing lights. Right by the ambulance bay. All is quiet, then they roll out the body and the last ambulance leaves. It is sad to think that someone with little or no family remaining has passed.

Sad, as well, to walk by en route to the grocery store and see a bevy of nurses outside, smoking. Yes, nurses, smoking and chatting. And the residents have a “tent” out in the parking lot, each with their respective chair they brought from whatever home they may have had, for smoking.

My elders used to discourage my great aunt from smoking. She refused until she was nearly 100 years old to go to a nursing home. When they realized how much of her pension was going to cigarettes, as soon as we turned 18 when we crossed the border to Canada to visit we were urged to use our adult status to get her cigarettes for 1/4 the price, as well as alcohol for the family reunion at a similar discount.  Way back then the US dollar was much stronger than Canada’s.

Mom was Canadian but finally got a Green Card. She kept citizenship there probably to make sure my brother never had to be conscripted for war duty. No, she never smoked. But I sat in her room and watched her for an entire week at hospice. She died over six years ago. I spent time with her alive, barely, there was no funeral, and my gift at her death was to assure that before cremation, her corneas were donated at her behest.

When I see these ambulances I think of people, not parts. I hope they have family and friends who care and will remember them and their stories. My father went in this week to have two cancerous tumors removed. It reminds me to go see him as soon as possible (he wouldn’t let me come and cook right away) and hear and write down as many stories as I can.

He is a human being, not a set of parts. I will not miss the ambulances. I will miss the view, of an ever-changing lake and feeding one set of ice fishers each year who let me get the closest I ever will to walking on water. Cheers from my temporary new space! We’ll set up the new printer today and I’ll be on the move. Dee


Walking Out the Door

I’ve done it. I’ve held my dog and cat during and after euthanasia because they couldn’t make a life anymore. I’ve scattered their ashes and been at hospice before my mother died several years ago.

Jobs? I left gently for better opportunities but only openly quit once. Then I was stymied by a powerful woman who seduced me over a bagel at a hotel restaurant on Central Park. She only wanted me to work for her because I knew that thing, computers. Now my husband laughs as we have a division of labor and he takes care of all electronics. I take care of the dog and everything else.

Losing faith. I only walk out on a few of those who don’t want me or who feed me to the wolves. Some I fight for anyway because they need me.

Ideas, tenacity, a brain or two and walking out the door isn’t so bad. I see it as an opportunity. Although my husband is deathly allergic to cats (I’ll tell you a story) we are cats and always land on our feet.

Walking out the door. Today. HR conversation about when all benefits will end. COBRA is nearly $1K and “marketplace” is about $4,500 per month.

So much for walking away, and away we go. Dee

When Sirens Stop

I’m looking out on a “physical rehab” center that is no more than a continuous care facility/old age home. Just now, a siren was going and stopped en route, then backed up slowly and staff went inside.

Years ago I decided to end the suffering of my cat, after staying until 4:00 in the morning for him. I was called “Nathan’s Mom” all that time, and from the time I decided to be there to help end his life I was only called by my given name. He was 13 and suffered from congestive heart failure combined with pneumonia.

Oh, they’re taking the body out. I think they want to turn this human’s room over quickly, as there is money to be made, as there was with Nathan.

Nathan the cat’s is the first death I ever ordered or participated in. I cannot tell you what it was like to feel the life leave his body and I believe his soul entered mine. Having a life in one’s hands and cradling the body is a feeling one cannot convey in mere words.

The lights and sounds go off the ambulance for human beings, the owner becomes Mr. or Mrs. Smith if it’s an animal.  Here it comes, in a black plastic bag, what was a person 1/2 hour ago.

As a child, growing up Catholic, we were never taught how babies were made or why people die, even that people died. We were kept from it all.

Now the body has been dutifully and respectfully loaded into the ambulance. The person in charge must be doing the paperwork while the others are out having a cigarette. Death as a business. I choose life. Dee

Marshalling Forces

A relative died this morning, and his funeral is set with full military honors early Saturday morning. As we live 1,600 miles away my husband is boarding a flight in hours to be a pallbearer.

This death was a shock to all, but the family soldiers on and the grandchildren (there are ten) will be honorary pallbearers. To make these kinds of arrangements in less than 12 hours is remarkable, as well as getting permission to have him buried in the pasture. Perhaps the sadness hasn’t hit yet and they’re in shock and “we MUST do this” mode. I don’t know. If it were my husband I’d be a horrible sobbing mess. Or perhaps not.

I do know that it is another blow to a grandmother to have now lost two of her five children. My heart goes out to her and everyone left behind. I am not going because it’s too expensive to send two of us on this journey when it’s my husband’s family. All I would do is cook and clean up the kitchen and there are many other women to do that, plus all day people have been dropping food by the house so my contribution might be moot from the start.

So I’ll pack a bag for my husband, whose black suit still fits, and take him to the airport at the crack of dawn. My thoughts and prayers are with his family as this is a tough time for all. Respectfully, Dee

Can You Top This?

Today my dear friend of 35 years lost his mom, as I did two years ago. We’re that age, being at the end of the boomers, where we may not be fully grown yet but our parents are dying.

We don’t talk about keggers anymore (at least I don’t) but my mother lasted two weeks in hospice and his lasted three. I don’t know if that’s better or worse because everyone is different and their conditions differ as well. Let’s hope the suffering was kept at a minimum for the patients, and the families.

At this age and with time after a parent’s death the “kids” are able to explain a good or bad hospice experience. I feel like just yesterday I was fearless, fit and fabulous. Now I’ve taken on a volunteer commitment that requires physical activity like kneeling on concrete floors and it reminds me that I’m aging too.

So when you’re feeling down, no matter the cause, think about the good stuff, listen to Jerry Jeff Walker’s London Homesick Blues and go home with the armadillo. With utmost respect, Dee