Steady CM readers know that my siblings and I recently set up our 91-year-old father’s house to accommodate round-the-clock nursing care. We turned our late mother’s dressing room into a pretty single bedroom just twenty feet from Dad’s bed so that the live-in nurse can quickly rise and attend to Dad in the middle of the night.
When a nurse or hospice worker is on the job, the relationship gets quickly intimate. It’s almost like an angel-confessor flutters in, and magically absorbs the family’s woes. All was well when I came back to New York, and Dad was bonding nicely with all three of the women sharing his care.
Of the three, one woman stood out as an especially sweet, well-meaning soul. While Dave Ann was forty-something, and a mother of nearly grown kids, she seemed surprisingly young, like she was still emerging from a protective cocoon. In the course of the time my sister and I were down there, I developed the self-indulgent fantasy that Dave Ann was opening up and finding our family fascinating: she accompanied Dad to his first appointment with an acupuncturist two weeks ago (somewhat thrust upon him by his bossy urban daughters), she listened to a Handel oratorio with us at high volume, she watched parts of a long documentary on the life of Theodore Roosevelt (and seemed so interested that my sister offered her the tape to take home), and she’d helped Dad and his wheelchair get to church just last Sunday.
Wednesday night, we received the most implausible, tragic news from her employer: Dave Ann was dead. She’d died in a car crash on Tuesday. A rear tire had blown, and she’d lost control.
My first chattering thought, upon getting this news secondhand from my sister, was: “No, it’s Dad who is close to death. Dad is 91. Dave Ann is young. She just joined us.” After processing the fact that I knew she had children, and that her husband had died several years ago, I was racked with grief for her remaining family.
“Dad,” I said the next day, still struggling to absorb the sequence of events, “since you still write columns for the newspaper, maybe you should write something about Dave Ann. Perhaps you should gather your thoughts on the…I don’t know, maybe it’s the seeming randomness of death. Maybe in paying tribute to her, you could also deal with what’s happening to you.”
He didn’t jump at my suggestion. He is still weak. He can only do so much. So he sent a wonderful note, a check, and a ham to Dave Ann’s family.
Up until this morning, if you can believe it, I’d actually forgotten that I am blogging, and that I could tell you about this up-ending experience. When I told the whole story to Beliefnet.com’s astrology columnist Shelley Ackerman, she said, “When you analyze the final days of someone’s life, they are always amazing.”
And Dave Ann’s were amazing. One light has been shut off. But another is lit and burning. I remember giving Dave Ann a kiss on the cheek when I left. Silly chattering me was thinking: “I wonder if kissing Dave Ann is appropriate.” And now I’m so glad I kissed her. I’m so glad I did.