I get by with a little help from my friends…

17 09 2008

I dig iconic art.  I wasn’t raised with iconic art in my church unless you consider a semi-tropical river scene in the baptistry iconic art.  I always felt a bit like the baby Moshe being put in a wicker basket about to be floated down the Nile during the 8:30 a.m. sleepy service on Sundays. 

Pictures of our Jesus were not on the walls or in statues – just in those carry- home papers we were supposed to read with our parents.  They were always the same pictures and when I look at them now I seriously hope Jesus doesn’t look like that at all.


 A tad creepy really.


And I didn’t know my heart   had an Arts & Crafts             decorating motif… I thought it’d be a bit more like door at Bilbo Baggins’ Bag End.


When we showed up at the funeral home for Billy’s wake and did the first “walk through”, I noticed that everyone did a little imperceptible shudder…it wasn’t like when my Mom first saw her father “dressed out” in the casket and realized that his moustache had been shaved off while in the hospital down in Tennessee…but it was a shudder nonetheless.

On a side table near the casket was a glass pillar candle with a picture of my dad superimposed over the background of a flag that the funeral home had prepared. It was like the ones you can buy in the grocery store – at least I can buy them in my grocery store in the hispanic section – but I imagine some of you don’t have large immigrant communities in your neighborhood. 

Baptists don’t get into the candle thing so much – at least the way good Catholics do. Sometimes I’m pretty sure when Martin threw the baby out with the bath water there were lots of things that Protestants might think about reclaiming. One explanation of the candle part is:

Vigil Lights (from the Latin vigilia, which means “waiting” or “watching”) are traditionally accompanied by prayers of attention or waiting. Another common type of candle offering is the votive light. Such an offering is indicative of seeking some favor from the Lord or the saint before which the votive is placed. Lighting a candle is a way of extending one’s prayer and showing solidarity with the person on whose behalf the prayer is offered.

Mom has begun to really enjoy her St. Billy candle.  She couldn’t have candles lit around Billy much in the end – he’d freak out thinking they were going to catch the house on fire and would go around behind her blowing them out as soon as she had lit them.  Now, I appreciate that Smokey the Bear mentality but those little battery operated tea lights that I bought them as a substitue – don’t really cut it much.  

For as long as I can remember, when the weather starts to turn cold and the days grow shorter – she enjoys having a candle on her kitchen table to light in the early hours of dawn.  So maybe she’ll be sharing that space with Billy’s face flickering in front of her.  Yesterday something she read got the well of tears pump primed and she has had a hard time capping the flow.  That is a good thing.  She needed that and it is healthy.  I’m a bit jealous actually. And she said she likes to be alone to get it out her way – on her timetable.  What a smart woman.

One of the first days I came home after the funeral, I was at the grocery store and had to bring some friends home with me to share my space.  And in case you don’t recognize them by their faces, know that I’ve got it covered here with the patron saint of hopeless cases on my side.  I know you’re relieved.

no more down and outers

16 08 2008

Orange juice.  Chocolate ice cream.  Cranberry juice. Three things that we never knew him to like.   A fan blowing on the face.  Hanging up things we can’t see.  Carrying on one way conversations.  Using invisible tools. Two blankets and freezing cold.  Watching two “bugs” battling on the wall.  Twisting up an entire blanket.  Perfectly still.  Not breathing for as much as  30 seconds.  Talking.  No talking.  No eyes open. Mouthing every word to Amazing Grace as the chaplain played his guitar. Trying to sit up.  Not moving a muscle for the entire night.  Bright blue eyes staring through you.  “I’m just trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing…”

But we are quiet. We are at rest.  We’ve all read the booklet left us by a hospice nurse.  A folder full of pamphlets  – but this ONE…we must read.  Yeah right.  Do you know how much information is coming our way?  But these people radiate such an energy of calm and a quiet “in charge” that their lead must be followed.  They have not been wrong yet.  They do death.  That little blue book explaining the signs we will see – our only touchstone that this is really happening.

So after almost 48 hours in a hotel, conferring with the committee – I drive back to home home for a couple of days or less depending on the situation.  The time in the car was typical except I kept thinking of all the times that I tried to imagine how I’d feel on this particular trip.  When the doors to the hospice center closed behind me, I walked out into the courtyard where all rooms have their windows overlooking plants, flowers, trees, statues…from outside, I leaned into the window to his room and peered through the slated blinds.  Just as I’d left him…just as he’d been all day.  They said we’d have days like this following days like yesterday.

Yesterday there was some activity that we had to play along with – feeling as if we were entering into the game of charades mid-stream.  It was fairly easy to pick up the cues and roll with it.  Lots of visitors – some expected and anticipated, others a surprise.  Playing the part of gracious hosts at a party we didn’t even want to be at – never wanted to host.

As exhausting as it was for me – it was harder on Billy.  The afternoon shadows were lengthening and he still had words for my brother-in-law, “are there going to be any more down and outers?”  Down and outers…we laughed quite hard.  He was tired too.  Too tired.  So much so that today there were barely any words or even a hint of understanding when he was being spoken to.  Maybe it was the perfect time to say good-bye – I didn’t have to deal with an answer from him or look into his eyes and wonder if he even knew who I was.  

“I’m going home to get some clothes.  If you fall asleep before I get back, it’s okay, I have the key.  I know how to get in.”  And I was out the door.

Half my trip home was more NPR – then I put in some cd’s.  Natalie Maines summed it up best. 

These walls have eyes
Rows of photographs
And faces like mine
Who do we become
Without knowing where
We started from

It’s true I’m missing you
As I stand alone in your room

Everyday that will pass you by
Every name that you won’t recall
Everything that you made by hand
Everything that you know by heart

And I will try to connect
All the pieces you left
I will carry it on
And let you forget
And I’ll remember the years
When your mind was clear
How the laughter and life
Filled up this silent house…

Not to worry – there won’t be more songs…we have better things to talk about tomorrow!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

10 08 2008

An 81 year old Indiana woman was arrested this week after having been found guilty of violating the federal guidelines for prescription sharing. In an apparent attempt to poison her husband with nasal spray the authorities have been called in for further investigation. There has been no bail set at this time. She has been placed under house arrest until further notice.