The weekend of May 25-26 we knew that my mother was in the hospital again and the situation seemed serious. It was difficult to communicate with her by phone due to the full-face oxygen mask she had to wear, but the nurses were helpful and informative. On Saturday, they were honest and frank about the prognosis, not pretending everything was going well.
My brothers and I were on the phone making plans to go to Florida not only for her but also to see about Dad, who had meanwhile been taken to the hospital with a fever. Still at their home, though with care from the visiting Comfort Keeper people, was our elderly aunt Carolyn. I was to go early Monday morning and would be there by noon. Sunday night, Nancy, Zach and I were having a dinner together out back, and at the end, Nancy proposed a toast to "Mom and Grandma." That was at 7:30 p.m. We did not know it at the time, but that was exactly when she passed away, peacefully in a coma.
The staff had very considerately placed them in the same room and we hope that provided them some comfort. I went to the hospital directly from the airport, and when I woke Dad found he had been out of it the previous day and it fell to me to tell him what had happened. He had a hard time speaking, but said, "Well, nothing's going to be the same." And it was, quickly, the end of the household of three very old people doing their best to stay in their home and out of institutions, but activity mostly revolved around going to doctor appointments; social life with their neighbors and the many Pennsylvania Club members had slowed down to very little. Cousin Glenn and his wife Lois were already there to take Carolyn back to northeastern Pennsylvania with them and were in the midst of the painful process of packing her life up in boxes. When they left and we knew none of the three (except for an outside chance for Dad) would be back home, the stillness was chilling in the Florida heat.
While visiting Dad, who had been transferred to the nearby rehab hospital after a surprising improvement, we went about the unfamiliar business of end-of-life arrangements. A viewing was set up at the local funeral home for Mom and the very nice neighbors and friends came by to say good-bye, as well as nephew Matthew and his new bride Jessica, who live to the north in Tampa. Nancy and I missed their wedding in February, so it was good to see them, and good to see new lives beginning as old ones departed.
We've gathered a great collection of old photographs to display at the upcoming funeral, to be held in Camp Hill, PA, and expect everyone will enjoy seeing them. Their wedding photo still looks glamorous, and we have youthful and high school ones. Instead of the usual generic formalities, we're going to tell stories about when Mom was young and full of life like in those pictures. Mine is going to about how they met, which is still a great tale after all these years.
They were married 66 years. We really can't think of them apart.
From Socrates' farewell speech:
The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways -- I to die, you to live.
Which is better, God only knows.