Busy times and some changes have kept me from sitting down at the computer; the more things that happened, the harder it became to even consider catching up! But I'm here at last.
2013 ended with a flurry of activity. In late October the DHubby and I trekked to Vicksburg to attend a concert (Laura on viola) and celebrate our darling daughter's 33rd birthday (just a tad early.) There seemed to be so much to do to before Thanksgiving, and we pared back our menu and our expectations.
The DHubby's mother had a minor fall the week before the holiday. A trip to the ER was mandatory, but the assisted living facility did not inform us of the incident in a timely way. The ER nurse called us to see if we were coming to take her back to her residence! Given the timing, we agreed they could send her home in a cab. Though she was only bruised, Esther was in enough discomfort that she wanted to stay in bed and take pain medications, and I'm sorry to say that 'irascible' is the kindest descriptor for her mood and conduct. Everyone agreed that coming out for the Thanksgiving meal was not a good idea.
In the event, our daughter came up a day early because of the ugly weather prediction (and was that ever the right call!) We stayed cozily ensconced throughout the holiday. The Thanksgiving menu: cranberry relish, cranberry sauce, turkey and cornbread dressing, delicata squash, Italian green beans, and (oh, the shame!) boughten yeast rolls. We enjoyed a chat with our son, far away in California (or, at least I think we talked...things are running together in my head.)
The day after Thanksgiving, we put up the (artificial, pre-lit) Christmas tree; happily, this was with a minimum of fuss. The DHubby made his traditional vow that this would be our last year to deal with this tree. Both he and our daughter declined to decorate, instead preferring to watch college football games together. (It was more peaceful because there was no need to phone one another every two minutes.) And Saturday our darling headed home again, arriving safely in early afternoon. We were busy with the usual post-visit activities (laundry, washing up, putting away the silver) and then enjoyed a dinner of leftovers. Just as we arose from the table, the telephone rang.
Esther was being transported to the ER, in great pain and "talking out of her head." We immediately drove to the medical center (five minutes from home) and arrived to find it jammed. Later we learned that it's always the busiest weekend of the year, because people are away from home, all the PCP's are on holiday, and flu season is under way. We were told only one of us could go back and join Esther, who was in the hall until a space was available. Don went back while I huddled in the waiting room trying to avoid germs.
Eventually I was called to the private space; Esther was calmer with an IV and medication, but still in pain. The physician speculated that perhaps a cracked vertebra had been missed the week before, and he ordered a CT scan. Meanwhile, I took the nurse aside to mention that Etz had an inoperable abdominal aortic aneurysm that had been enlarging in recent months; her pain seemed to me to be focused in her belly and side rather than her back. An EMT stopped by to see how she was doing, describing how badly she was crashing when his team arrived with the ambulance. Esther was barely back from the CT when the DHubby and I were called out into the hallway, where the physician, with some distress, told us that the radiologist had just phoned to say that the scan showed the aneurysm was leaking. "This is 100% terminal. She may have 5 to 7 days left. We will be admitting her, and I recommend that you call in hospice." So....it appeared that the EMTs had interrupted her death--or rather, delayed it.
Esther, at 89 1/2 years, had been physically fairly stable for such a long time, and although we knew that some day she would die, we had come to think that she might go on for many more years. (There were 9 Koch siblings in all, and several had lived into their 90's.) We were shocked but not emotional. We stayed and accompanied Etz to her room, saw her settled and resting, and came home to contemplate what we needed to do; it was nearing midnight.
Sunday morning when we arrived at the hospital, Etz was sitting up and eating a bit of breakfast. She dictated a list of things she would need from her assisted living room, and I promised to come back with those items after lunch. She did not ask any questions about her condition, and she seemed composed, sentient, and comfortable; she did not look like a dying woman. Because it was a weekend, there was little we could do except telephone relatives and make a list for Monday calls (to hospice, to her pastor, to the funeral home where prearrangements had been in place since the last crisis.) We did not know then that instead of a few days, Esther would linger three weeks.
Esther died on December 20th. The long days between her crisis and her final hour were filled with emotion, activity, and uncertainty. Her space in assisted living had to be cleared out; many people had to be contacted, informed, reassured. We spent time with Esther twice or three times a day--even with the inconvenient ice storm that closed down the city. Nurses and doctors could not understand why she was still living....and until Esther finally dealt with her fear of dying and her unfinished business, she clung to life. It was a blessing plain to all of us who witnessed it, when she was able to meet her final tasks; after that, she was welcoming rather than fighting off her death.
Our Christmas was subdued but joyful. Daughter Laura joined us; Nathaniel called us; we celebrated the season, and we now welcome the New Year and contemplate our altered lives.
On Esther's behalf, we made donations to Good Will; the Lion's Club (glasses); Starkey Hearing Foundation (hearing aids); Big Brothers and Big Sisters; the Interfaith Clinic; and the Prayer Shawl Ministry at Grace United Methodist Church where she was a member. Not a bad legacy!
That is enough for now, even if there is more to tell.
I'm wishing a long life and a good legacy to those left behind ...for each of us!