Hospice room with a view, where for the first time in nearly nine months of the “cruel and unusual punishment” of severe West Nile Virus, my dad finally experienced what can only be described as a good, joy-filled day on his move here this May 8 afternoon. Odd how this moment of moving toward the end of life can seem such a new beginning, filled with smiles, sun, and warmth. My dad said that he wasn’t scared of death, in response to one of my sisters asking him today. Apparently he also told my youngest sister at some point today that his “signal” to us after passing would be chicken soup. She joked with him, “Not matzah ball soup?” as complement to our late uncle’s, his beloved brother’s, “signal” of pastrami on rye, which I wrote about a couple days ago (https://cbmilstein.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/comfort-food/).
I, two sisters, my mom, and my dad all silently watched the sun set beyond the gorgeous flowering tree in this picture, right outside the open door of his hospice room, as our hands touched arms. We three sisters then saw my dad pat the bed that the caring hospice staff here moved close against his hospital bed, gesturing that he wanted my mom to lie next to him for the first — and perhaps last — time in nearly nine months, after decades of what can only be described as a good, joy-filled marriage. I kissed his head (like his dad used to do for me when I was young) and squeezed his hand; “It’s like your second honeymoon,” I joked. He beamed up at me, and I somehow almost didn’t notice the vent that for nearly nine months has been breathing for him, suspending him in hellish nonlife. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring; we never do. And it’s hard to describe today as happy, but that’s strangely the best word that leaped to mind as I left my folks lying side by side in an intimate homey hospice in Michigan set on 22 acres where people come to die.
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If you’ve run across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com. Share, enjoy, and repost — as long as it’s free as in “free beer” and “freedom.”
(Photo by Cindy Milstein, Stoneleigh Hospice, Lansing, Michigan, 2013)