My friend Meg has started using her Blog to detail the lives of her departed loved ones. This is a good use of a Blog, and I will flatter her by imitation.
October is coming up, and that's my birth month. I think I'll start by telling a little about my parents.
My father was 1/2 Cherokee. He was not even an American citizen until he was 6 years old because American Indians and their offspring were not citizens until after 1915. He never got over the "disgrace" of being a "half-breed." He was distant and emotionally uninvolved with both my mother and me.
Mother was the only child. Her daddy fought in WWI in France, and didn't even see her until she was 18 months old. He wanted to make a career of the military, but his wife, my grandmother, didn't want him to - and made a big stink about it. Mama was their little princess. She had all the advantages they didn't have growing up - dancing lessons, piano lessons, summer camp, good city schools rather than poor rural schools. She met my father when she was in college. He was in the insurance business - with my grandfather's company. I believe I remember they met when she was meeting her father for supper after work one night.
Their marriage, like so many of the early 40's marriages, didn't survive WWII. Neither did my grandfather. He died of a brain abscess - the result of a head wound he had sustained over 27 years earlier in France - the same year my parents divorced.
Mama was a bubbly, happy character - the kind who made the best of everything and was always ready to have fun with her friends. She was a good Mom, and included me in on fun, too. We went to her parties together, she took me on many of her dates. She worked hard to give me, her only child, as many advantages as she could. I, too, had summer camp, piano lessons, dancing lessons and good city schools - because she was determined her child would have those things.
She worked hard, and just about the time she could have stopped worrying about raising me (I was in Nursing School) she developed Rheumatoid arthritis. It was fast developing, intense, and totally crippling. In 2 years she went from a 5'6" slender woman to a 5'3" cripple. Over the next 12 years she had over 30 major orthopedic surgeries to remove (not replace) joints and fuse her neck. During this time I married, began having children, and my husband was transferred by the Air Force to Utah. I had to leave her. By that time she was retired on disability and living at home with her mother. Leaving was the hardest thing I ever did, but she wouldn't hear of me staying with her. My place, she said, was with my husband. Four years later, when we returned, she put herself and her mother into a nursing home - they shared a room. After my grandmother died a year later, she had a series of roommates - mostly very elderly women who died quickly. She stayed on there for 4 years.
During that time, we were able to talk about everything we needed to talk about. It was during that time that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote about "Death and Dying." Mama read that, and we talked about death and what she had wanted for me. We said our "sorries" and our "happies" and our "goodbyes." Finally, the RA invaded her spine and led to dislocation of several vertebrae which in turn caused paralytic ileus. She couldn't keep anything down. The doctors at that time could not do anything for her, and she decided she didn't want any more interventions. The nursing home staff refused to remove her IV, and I ended up having to take it out. One of the hardest things I've ever done. She lingered for 2 1/2 days. Most of that time she was in and out of consciousness. But she would rouse from time to time to talk to someone that I couldn't see. She would smile and seem so happy. But if I spoke to her, she would look worried and "interrupted." On the last day, I told her I was going to lunch and would be right back. There was no place to eat in the nursing home, and I had to go up the street to Steak and Shake. When I got back, she was gone. She had died 10 minutes after I left. To this day, I believe she waited for me to leave so I wouldn't be there when she died.
We didn't convert to Orthodoxy until over a year later, so I never had the opportunity to tell her about the Church - but somehow I believe, no, I KNOW, she entered the Church before we did.
I do miss her so much. This year she would have been 87.
May God grant Memory Eternal to His handmaiden, Elizabeth.