The Family has hunkered down now.  Daughter Lisa from Kentucky will stay for the duration with Denis and the girls coming when the time is right.  Son, Micah, Daughter-in-Law, Becky, and Granddaughter from an hour away (the Kansas City area), are now also camping out in the downstairs tonight.  We need to be close to one another and close to Mary Ann.

Of course we cannot know when Mary Ann will let go and head off for the next leg of her journey, or more appropriately said, the destination.  Her breathing is very shallow.  Last night I got up three or four times and went over to touch her chest to determine if she was still breathing.  We want her to stay longer and at the same time to just quietly breathe her last breath without distress.

Her condition seems fragile.  It is getting harder to find a position that does not put her weight on one of the red spots that have been threatening to transition into bed sores.  Hospice Aide Sonya came and managed to give her a bed bath, wash and blow dry her hair.  She was, of course, completely unresponsive during that activity.  Her fever was not very high this morning, but enough to warrant giving her a Tylenol suppository.  This evening her temperature seemed to the touch to be back to normal, so we did not give her the Tylenol.  We have only given her two of the lowest recommended doses of Morphine, since she has seemed comfortable most of the time today.

While there still appears to be none of the expected mottling of the skin, she seems fragile enough to die at any time.  It is getting harder to compartmentalize my thinking and feeling.  The kids seem to share that problem.  We go about our business as if we are accomplishing something, doing various tasks, talking with folks on the phone and those who came by today.  Then we walk into that room and look at the person we love and can’t bear the thought of losing from our lives here on earth, and the pain wells up, ready to break open.  It is hard to maintain the boundaries between the compartments in our lives.  When I am doing other things, outside that room, thoughts of doing whatever it is with her gone from here breach the boundary between the compartments.

There have been moments when pleasing gestures and gifts have lifted our spirits.  Last evening, Neighbor Harlene brought over food to us, so that we would have dinner tonight.  We already started on the chocolate chip cookies last night.  Later today, Janet and Joe, former parishioners, brought over some supper.  Both meals could be prepared with portions for tonight and tomorrow and portions to go in the freezer for later times.  I will appreciate having nourishment readily available after things settle.

Pr. Jim came by to spend some time.  I shared thoughts about funeral plans and he was very willing to help us have a service meaningful to us as well as any who gather with us.  We have the chance of having two wonderful vocalists sing at the service Carol and Kristen.  Carol has been a part of the congregation for many years, directing the choir for a large portion of those years, singing solos often.  Kristen (Carol’s voice student for many years) is based in Boston (has sung with the Boston Pops), sings professionally, and has as wonderful a soprano voice as I have ever heard.  Those plans are still in the works.  We will see what finally is possible.  We will talk with the Director of Worship about hymns and special music. In our tradition we are free to use joyful music rather than dirges at funerals.  We leave with a sense of victory rather than defeat.

Sister Gayle, Niece Diana and Friend Joy have agreed to team up to handle the logistics of a memorial gathering in Northern Illinois for all those who would not be able to travel here for the service.  The plan is that it will include food, memory sharing and a short worship service in an informal setting.

Then, at one point today, the doorbell rang and there was delivered a small vase of flowers, yellow roses, yellow alsternaria and white daisy mums.  Both Mary Ann and I enjoy having cut flowers in the house. We just love flowers outside or inside.  That vase of flowers perked our spirits.  Gretchen, who sent them, was in the first Confirmation class when I arrived in 1996 at the church from which I retired as Sr. Pastor two years ago.  She is soon to complete her thesis as Dr. Gretchen.

A foam wedge was delivered this afternoon to help keep Mary Ann in a position that avoids putting more pressure on the red spots that are threatening to provide serious discomfort.  We are putting Tegaderm patches on the red spots.  They are an almost transparent thin plastic patch that has just enough cushioning to give the skin a chance to heal when red spots appear.  If any of the spots transition to open sores, the Hospice Nurse will come and put a dressing on them.

I have taken a number of breaks from writing to go in and check on Mary Ann’s breathing.  I have thought about what it feels like to be in this time that some readers of this post have called sacred.  Pr. Jim noted a sense of peace when he has visited.  It is a time of very complex dynamics.  There is hardly a more sacred time than the last moments of life.  Death certainly is what helps define life. Someone observed that there is absolutely no difference in the amount of matter, the weight, the chemical composition of a body before and immediately after death.  There is one difference.  Life is gone.  Life does not have material substance, but look at the difference it makes.

These moments of transition certainly are sacred.  There is peace.  There is pain. The one does not diminish the other. Is it peaceful pain or painful peace.  At any rate, they are folded together into one sacred time in our lives, Mary Ann’s, the Kids and Grandkids, and mine.

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