A year ago today, my dear friend, Grace, fell in her apartment building and broke her pelvis. She was 87. She lay stoic where she fell, right by the elevator and the side entrance to the independent elderly apartment building. I had been living with Grace since late July of that year. A neighbor came and got me immediately.
“Oh, hon,” I said as I saw her. She smiled – as she would. We both intuitively knew that this was going to begin the process of her leaving the incarnation. Dominoes, some already circumstantially in place and others to be placed by circumstances, would at some point tip and cause the undoing of her body and cascade her passage. Her smile said that she knew it all already.
Grace and I both knew that I was coming to be with her through the end. She knew that my coming in July indicated that each day was going to be precious, engaged as if it were the last. And each day was – not with any morbidity but with joy, realness, deep conversation, laughter, logistics, and sometimes like a cat in the sunshine or snuggled for an afternoon nap in the easy chair.
For all the money that is spent to stay in a rehab facility, glaring omissions in care occur. The stupidity of the model is predictable as are the detrimental results. I’m sure others have their stories too. Grace didn’t give up ever, but she understood what was worth fighting for and what not.
I visited her almost every day. Katherine did too. Living with her, I knew her routines and brought from home the few things that would ease her mind by providing those routines: the newspaper, crossword puzzles, the pen that felt right in her hand and worked even with her tremor, Spirit Fire’s iPad for afternoon perusal of the Guardian, NY Times, and BBC.
Home-made warm suppers were often schlepped. Who knew that a zippered cooler bag would also keep food warm! I’d pack dishes from home, cloth napkins and Grace’s silver plated cutlery. Anything to give her emotions and mind a shift from the imprisonment of the rehab.
Yes, rehab led to pneumonia. Pneumonia, exercising and sitting taxed her weakened heart and it tilted into congestive heart failure. Rehab gave ‘way to ICU then to nursing home then to coming home with hospice for her last 10 days. She died just before the clock struck Valentine’s Day, but hospice declared her time of death after they arrived – therefore, on the day of Love. How fitting.
In the beginning of December she told me that she did not think that she would see Christmas. Her intuition was almost right; Christmas was not at home but in the rehab.
I marvel as our higher nature. It is always in control, always orchestrating. The more one lives aligned with inner being, the more flow there is with all that higher control and direction. Grace lived this way.
On the day she died, it was just she and I for most of the day. I was reciting the prayers that she said daily. She opened her eyes and like a child asked, “What should I do?” I said, “Hon, you can leave or you can stay. If you stay, we’ll love you and take care of you. If you leave, we’ll love you and you’ll take care of us.” She smiled, closed her eyes again, and I went back to mantra. She passed on peacefully later that night.
Those six months were the greatest gift I have received this life. I look forward to Grace’s reincarnation.