Saturday, August 09, 2008

Sorrow, tears, and laughter

As Evelyn grew weaker and weaker over the last couple of years, we knew our time with her was limited. This time when we got "the call," we knew the end was coming. I could tell when I saw her the first night at the hospice, that she was the weakest I had ever seen her. By Saturday evening, all the family that could get to the hospice had gathered.

The BSA hospice was really a wonderful place, her room was large and the adjacent room and courtyard allowed plenty of "spillover" space for all the family that was gathered. While Evelyn had been wanting a big family reunion, these were not the circumstance that she had in mind. Evelyn slept most of Saturday. She knew we were in the room, and we regularly gave her ice chips and let her know we were there. She even ate a little lunch, which gave us a little hope. However, her breathing was ragged and she quit taking much liquid around 6:00. At one point, her breathing became ragged and as Mary tried to help her take deep breaths, she did not immediately respond. We had an instant of panic that perhaps she would not wake up, but Mary said in a louder voice: "Roger is almost here - he's going to be here soon." Her eyes popped wide open, and she woke up a little bit. When Walter came in and told her Roger was here, she perked up. She knew we were all there and immediately asked, "Is anyone taking pictures?"

All we had was our cell phones, but out they came. In spite of the sad circumstances, we got photos of the family as we shared a unique time of family fellowship. There was laughter mixed with tears, joy that all of her kids were together for her this one last time. Glad that she knew we were all together. As I realized that all of the Amarillo grandchildren and great grandchildren were here, I called my children. They had that one last conversation with their grandmother - and she was able to answer back, however weakly. During this incredible two or three hour window, she was the most alert and coherent she had been all day.

It had elements of a party, a family reunion, where there was that special joy in being together as a family, but there were tears because we knew she was leaving us, but a peace because we knew she was going to a better place where one day we will join her. She was going to join her beloved husband. I know that the prayers being lifted up on our behalf from all the family's churches help give us a special sense of peace and comfort that night.

When she died the next day, we all realized that we had been given one of those special gifts from God - that last time as a family with her mentally present and with us.

Sorrow, tears, love, laughter . . . we had a special bittersweet time Saturday night . . . Sunday she slept most of the day, rousing to tell Martha, "I'm tired, I'm tired of fighting . . . I want to go home." As her breaths became farther and farther apart, she went home. I know she was greeted by Gene, her sister Louise, her parents and grandparents. We are going to miss her so much, but some part of her remains with each of us - our memories of what a special lady she was.

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