January 25th, 2017

Flying Home

Later today, our eldest daughter, who had flown in from California to help with her mother's care, will be flying back home.

It was her third trip back East, since the beginning of her mother's illness, and she was present for those last sad and difficult days in the intensive care unit.

By the time she arrived, for this visit, her mom had already been intubated and was resting in that drug-induced twilight from which she would never fully awaken. Nor, because of the breathing tube which was forcing metered oxygen into her lungs, would she ever again be capable of speech.

But when Katherine appeared at her bedside, her mother astonished everyone by clearly smiling at the sound of her voice and by attempting to speak when Kath told her that she was there for her and that she loved her.

By that time, the pacemaker had been implanted and the nerve-blocking ablation had been performed between the right upper and lower chambers of her heart. Also, within a day, she would be moved to an adjacent room where around-the-clock dialysis could be started.

But after bravely rallying once again over her final night, she would slip away from us, her worn body having at last given in to catastrophic organ failure and to what her death certificate calls "undifferentiated shock."

After that, Katherine would stay with us and would work with her next-oldest sibling, our daughter Rebecca, to help put their mother's final affairs in order.

Whatever she has done, she has done tirelessly and well, from being a wonderful auntie to her sister's three young children, a consoling voice to our silently-grieving but obviously-hurting grandson, and a valued presence at the myriad administrative and legal proceedings which have followed her mother's passing.

All of us will truly miss her, but her husband and four young children have been missing her as well. And she is also needed at home to resume management of the fire-investigation business with which she and her husband support themselves and their family.

As I was leaving to take my grandson home tonight, so that he could hopefully get rested and back to school in the morning, she pulled him aside and told him how much his grandmother had loved him and how much everyone appreciated him being there for the family.

On the drive home, this mostly-stoic young teen said to me that he wished we could all just go back with her to California. I told him that I wished that too. That, in fact, it's something that the family had briefly discussed, some months before his grandmother's illness.

I had also proposed to my wife, during one of those periods when we could still realistically dream of completing her recovery at home, that we take one of those scenic tours across country by train to visit Katherine's family in California.

Because she was so gravely ill, even then, she had a hard time embracing this for herself. But maybe it's a dream that I'll revisit with my grandson and the others, even though I'd find it hard to leave her here alone, in her place of rest.

Knowing that she is now the keeper, for all time, of this and so many other dreams...