Unexpected cocktails

At first, they looked like just another couple, sitting together at the table, side-by-side, him reading a book, her resting her eyes. But as time went on, I saw that, yes, he was reading, but more than that, he was keeping her company, or even keeping watch over her.

While she held a stack of greeting cards that perhaps wished her well or comfort or a speedy recovery, perhaps read to her while she mumbled stories or smiled about long forgotten family pranks, he kept her close to him and the life they enjoyed together, both past and present. A picture of pure love.

And then, this morning, I saw her picture in a small silver frame, over the words

In Loving Memory of
Maydelle
August 4, 1931 – January 10, 2020.

It brought unexpected tears and emotions that don’t belong in the same sentence or moment. Three separate feelings so clear and strong I was knocked sideways.

I feel such heartbreak for John, a godly man always and ever devoted to her. My mom and I usually met them in the same place in the retirement village where he’d both worked and now lived. They would be sitting at a table with a half-finished jigsaw puzzle, a collection of crosswords, or a book. But he only and always worked with just one hand – the one farthest from Maydelle. The other hand at the ready to hold hers, whether in love or concern – or most likely both. I am heartbroken for John.

I feel such joy for Maydelle. I have no idea how long she was immobile or unable to care for herself or John. The last time I saw her, she was asleep in a wheelchair designed to keep her safe from falling out, covered with beloved blankets, close as always to John. I have no doubt, though, that in her younger years, she was playful and active, full of life and hope for the future.

And, although the future is not what they had planned, her future now really is full of life and hope – in Heaven, sitting with Jesus, just waiting for her beloved. I am so joyful for Maydelle, free and whole, healed and complete.

At the very same time, despite my heartbreak for John and joy for Maydelle, I cannot shake or suppress the emotion I least expected … envy.

Envy not so much for me, although I am always reminded that, as people die, they get to see Bill.

But envy for my mom. Rather on her behalf. Because for more years than you might imagine, my mom has prayed for Home.

Yes, for 19 years, she’s had a good life at Fairhaven, a lovely place to settle and rest. Until lately, she’s been involved in her local church, helping others get to and from doctor’s appointments and the dining hall, sending cards of encouragement to those in pain or in need, keeping her extensive reading list up-to-date, staying connected with friends and family online and in person, and generally engaged with the world.

But now she remembers little of what happened three minutes ago, is confused by even the smallest of daily events, and feels lost in a painful and blurry world. What she really wants – what she only wants – is to see my dad and Jesus. She wants to be free and whole, healed and complete.

My mom doesn’t know about Maydelle – she wouldn’t remember even if I told her. But I feel the envy she would feel, awaiting the invitation she longs for.

When I hit the road this morning, my car on auto-pilot for an almost weekly visit, I had no idea I would return home with such a profoundly deep sense of loss for a woman I barely knew, never anticipating the emotions I would experience because of a picture in a small silver frame.

But if asked at this moment what’s going on with you right now? I would not be able to describe anything else. In fact, I think it may take more than a minute or two to find my balance again.

Who would have thought this cocktail of heartbreak, joy, and envy would have such an effect? Why has my soul been shaken by the not-wholly unexpected news of Maydelle’s passing? What is it about death that makes the whole world stop – if only but for a second?

Yet why am I so surprised? Do the visions in our crystal balls ever happen in the living technicolor, or time, or place we imagine? When planning our perfect future, don’t we hide a scrap of reality in our breast pocket just in case?

Why after all these years and attempts to choreograph my life am I caught off guard by the expected unexpected?

After all, aren’t each and every one of us a mere step or two away from a small silver picture frame? 

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, prompted by “Currently…” (reading, planning, stressing, wearing, watching, listening, eating, loving, feeling, hoping). If you’d like to hop along, please join us at Kristi Rieger Campbell’s Finding Ninee or Tamara Klein Bowman’s Tamera (like) Camera.

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

17 comments

  1. It’s such a strange (and somewhat beautiful) concept when people are ready to leave this place and move onto the next. For me, it’s hard to grasp now because I have a 10yo (and am at a truly die-able age having had him later in life), and I want to be here for him (and myself, to see what he’ll do with this life). But I also understand when somebody is ready, and I have great respect and admiration for that. I hope your mom finds peace and that you do too, in facing the loss of no longer having her here when the time comes. So glad you linked up. Hugs.

    Like

    1. Yes, about the “be here for him.” I’ve often said I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to leave my family. It probably has much to do with the fact that my first husband died when my daughter was 12. Although she has a lovely and devoted extended family and even more remarkable group of friends, I feel like I’m still all she has. Our understanding, explanations, and acceptance of life and death is so frail. Thanks for your insightful comments… xoxox

      Like

  2. Ah yes. All the small ways of being unexpectedly connected and emotionally impacted. Also, in the grieving for your mother’s current state of mind and living. It’s very hard and I’m hugging you virtually.

    Like

  3. I felt every tug of emotion here. I can’t relate to it because I haven’t experienced it, but I do understand. i’ve not yet had to step in a nursing to visit anyone. However I am blindsided by the expected unexpected when we lose someone in our neighborhood. We’ve lived in our current neighborhood for 15 years, and I’ve watched kids grow up, move out, come to visit with the grandkids etc. I’ve also seen Mrs. So & So disappear from walking her dog because she can’t, and the ambulances arrive when she was found unresponsive. It’s sad to see them “disappear” even though it’s to a better place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The visiting is pretty new for us too, especially with her increased memory loss. None of the grandparents on either side of our family experienced such changes, so I feel like such a rookie in the “care for” department – every visit is a surprise. I agree with your “disappear” description – but I have to say it’s even harder to watch them disappear right in front of you. Thanks for your kind words and sensitive observations… God’s peace… xoxox

      Like

  4. Oh wow, Nancy. The way you described it as a “cocktail of heartbreak, joy, and envy” is so perfect. I can almost feel those feelings, because they’re so thought-provoking.
    My grandparents both lived to 100.5, but they were two years apart, so died two years apart. And the end was pretty great for the most part – neither had experienced cancer, heart disease, dementia, or diabetes. They both simply outlived their bodies or their bodies outlived them. It was more of a quiet end.
    I think about that, though. When you really think about the end, it’s not really a Disney movie. Did you read “The Leisure Seekers”. That book brings up.. a lot.

    Like

    1. When I was driving home from that visit with my mom, I tried to sort out and really pinpoint what I was feeling. When I realized those three were sort of competing for first place, I was amazed that they came together so fast. Thanks for your lovely words and insight.
      Today my dad would have been 99 – he died suddenly almost 25 years ago. My mom’s been OK but lonely ever since, keeping busy but always wishing Dad was there. It’s so sweet that your grandparents got so much time together.
      I’ll check out “The Leisure Seekers” but it will take a while my stack of TBR books is precariously high 🙂
      God’s peace, dear writing friend… xoxox

      Like

  5. Oh wow, Nancy. The way you described it as a “cocktail of heartbreak, joy, and envy” is so perfect. I can almost feel those feelings, because they’re so thought-provoking.
    My grandparents both lived to 100.5, but they were two years apart, so died two years apart. And the end was pretty great for the most part – neither had experienced cancer, heart disease, dementia, or diabetes. They both simply outlived their bodies or their bodies outlived them. It was more of a quiet end.
    I think about that, though. When you really think about the end, it’s not really a Disney movie. Did you read “The Leisure Seekers”. That book brings up.. a lot.

    Like

  6. Nancy, I really felt your wide range of emotions here. Your mom sounds an awful lot like my grandmother did a short time before she passed. It was very hard to watch my grandmother go through that and yet as much as I wanted her to be at peace I still miss her now almost 10 years later. That said, I hope your mom finds her own peace very soon and that you are indeed comforted by it, as well. More virtual hugs your way from me to you. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Janine – we mostly pray for her daily peace and joy.
      And you are the second person sending a virtual hug – despite the distance, they still feel lovely.
      I truly hope that our grandchildren will have the same affection for us that you still hold for your grandmother. It’s nice to hear about close relationships between and among the generations.
      God’s peace to you and yours… xoxox

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s