Friday, March 28, 2014

Don't Stop Writing

After we brought Jed home from the hospital, he couldn't talk much.  The cancer and the strain of being intubated had taken its tole on his voice.  Most conversation was a weak whisper.  But, before we knew anything. and he was without all the tubes down his throat, we had wonderful conversations.  Little did I know that these were the last we would have.  After a great day of hope and family, he and I were alone for the evening before sleep.  He talked with me about writing and stories.  I read him Rowan's armadillo story.  He thought it was beautiful.  And then he said his last words to me.  "Sherry, I love you.  You work too hard for me.  Don't stop writing, you have a magical way with words."  I had no idea these would be his last words to me. 

But as it would be, again that night, he was intubated and became non verbal until his last day on earth. 

I've taken his words as power juice.  He told me to keep writing.  So, I will write.  I will write stories, I will write about us, I will write to the greats and the grands.  I will write, because it makes me feel powerful and the love of my life made that his last request.  I do not know where this writing will take me, but I'm looking forward to mixing and stirring the stuff in my heart with the glob of words I know.  Elnora told me, "You lose half your brain when you lose your husband."  Well, half, or more, is now gone, but the brain still stirs and the heart still beats, so get ready, I'm going to stick it down on paper and make it something.  I miss him so much.  It's an ache that takes over where breathing once was.  It's a hole.  Living with a hole ain't for sissys.  So I write.  Sometime it will be gobblygook  Sometimes sappy.  But sometimes, it will be pure and wonderful.  I will not know.  Jed was my critic.  Now he is my guardian angel.  He will help me decide. 

It totally sucks, losing not only your best friend and life love, but your brains.  How'd he get so smart anyway?  I will not stop writing, not only because Jed declared it so, but because it gives me strength.  Words mean something and stories can be magical.  Thank you, Jed, for giving me direction and all your love. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Friends, The Closest Thing To God

Sometimes I think I'm the luckiest person on earth.  It's not that I haven't had tough times.  My share has been ample for a gang.  It's the people that surround me.  I get filled with awe when I ponder my good fortune.  How on God's earth was I so fortunate to be totally surrounded by simply amazing people?  One might respond with, "Well, Sherry, you're good to people so they're good to you."
But it's more than that, way, way more than that.  It's been ordained, I'm sure.  Why me?  Let me tell you about just a few of the amazing people who surround me. 

Candy.  I've known Candy since 1970.  You do the math. She's been there for me at each life changing event.  And, this last January, when Jed's condition was getting worse, no questions asked, she hopped on a plane and came here to help out however she could.  She ran the shop while I was in the hospital with Jed, and she was by my side on Jed's final night.  She was there at the birth of my children, through my divorce and here, lifting me up with her presence when Jed passed.  If she was physically able, there was nothing she wouldn't do to help out. And, when we're together, we make each other laugh until we cry. What I love about Candy is her determination that nothing is beyond her reach.  Candy Rocks. 

Jean.  I met Jean for the first time at a birthday party for James some 26 years ago.  Jed brought me, and that was that.  Jean has the quickest wit and the sharpest mind of anyone I know.  She is so much fun to be with.  She was Jed's secretary so many years ago and the two of them could laugh about the memories for hours.  What I love about Jean (other that just about everything) is her gentle heart that's wrapped with joy and faith and humor.  She's had some real tough times the last many years and has led the way, showing me how a faithful woman lives the life she is given. 

Pat.  We met for the first time almost 25 years ago on the campus of Collett where we both worked.  We didn't like each other, since we are both a bit snobby.  And then, we went to sixth grade camp.  It was critical life time for both of us. We shared, we cried, we drank too much, and we have been dear friends since.  When Jed fell, she spent the night in the hospital with me.  And on his dying night she was right there beside me giving me support and strength.  She made cookies, until she ran out of flour, for Jed's service and rallied other teacher friends to do the same.  Pat and I have taken some amazing road trips together that no one would believe. What I love about Pat is how easy it is to be with her. Pat Rocks. 

Joey.  Joe has been my hairdresser for 25 years, give or take a few years where I couldn't afford it or thought I could do just as good with a $5 bottle of color.  I love my time with Joe.  We talk.  We laugh.  Sometimes we even cry.  And when I leave, I feel beautiful.  He always makes me feel like I'm the only one in the world right then and there.  And, Joey has done and is still doing an amazing video of Jed's life.  I am so blessed by him and his talent that it takes my breath away.  What I love about Joey is how he openly admits his vulnerability and then moves on with a bit of humor and a bit of caution at the same time.  Joey Rocks. 

Margaret.  I met Margaret about 8 years ago when she came in the shop looking for a space.  Little did I know she was, "a legend" as another long timer in the business recently said about her.  Tough as she tries to act, she has a loving heart and has always been there for me when I've needed her.  She sat with me at the hospital the night Jed fell, has rallied the Old Glory team a variety of times, and has been a real support at the shop. What I love about Margaret is her fighting spirit.  Margaret Rocks. 

Cynthia.  As friends go, she's one of the new ones.  I've known Cynthia about 9 years.  What I so love about her is that she doesn't do drama.  There's lots of drama in the antique world, and Cynthia just doesn't do it.  We've had some great fun shopping trips together and can't wait to have more.  She's my real junker friend.  It's dangerous to send us shopping with an empty truck. She spent the good portion of a night with Jed at the hospital when all of us were so tired that we just had to sleep. And, she loves concerts.  She's so independent and has gone to many.  I told her that I've lived a much more sheltered life than her.  Her response was, "well, you'll just have to work to catch up." What I love about Cynthia is not only does she not do drama, she is a wild thing not ready to be tamed. Cynthia Rocks. 

Ubaldo.  He's the real "new one."  I met Ubaldo in the shop about 6 years ago.  He was a customer who I found interesting and enjoyed talking with.  Once he needed something delivered.  Jed delivered it and came back saying, "he sure is a nice man."  Not long after, Ubaldo came in the shop saying, "your husband is a real nice man."  After Jed fell, I was at a loss, when I looked up from my depressed sidewalk stare, and there was Ubaldo and his mother coming into the shop.  The rest is history.  I hired him on the spot and that was the best thing I've ever done.  He and Jed were a match.  Their cussing and laughter mixed with the smells of whatever Ubaldo was cooking, to make our home full of joy.  No one could have done more for Jed than Ubaldo.  He was perfect for both of us.  And now, with Jed gone, Ubaldo and I are learning to live together as wonderful friends, making way for the other to have their space, and yet looking out for one another with loving care. What I love about Ubaldo is that he quickly became Jed's best friend, and the two of them had so much fun just being guys out having a good time.   Ubaldo Rocks

Elnora.  Even though she's been my sister in law for 25 years, I never really knew her until after Jed fell.  She belongs here.  Elnora came down so many times during the 5 years of Jed's fall, and we all just plain had fun.  What amazes me about Elnora is how she listens to me.  She listens and validates and listens more and validates more. She doesn't judge.  She doesn't criticize.  We drink wine together and talk about life and the way things are.   She and Ubaldo have become great friends as well, and we love her.  On Jed's dying night she sat beside him after he passed, and said, "I'm just keeping him company."  She understood Jed.  She knew his beautiful heart. What I love about Elnora is that she really is a wild and crazy woman just waiting for Ubaldo and me to bring it out.   Elnora Rocks.

I have lots of other friends who come in and out of my life with bits of vigor and joy, but it's these who have been here, steady and faithful.  I am the luckiest person on earth.  There is a God and He is in the heart of each one of the beautiful people in my life. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It seems time to tell the dying story.  We were so very much about living.  Dying came without preparation.  Looking back, we had clues, but they were too subtle for our  much-about-living minds.  Jed's pattern for the past five years was to get something in the fall that sapped his energy.  One year shingles, another pneumonia, another cold and flu.  We accepted the pattern.  It made us sad, because he would spend all year building his strength, only to have the fall and winter take it away. But, it was indeed a pattern we got familiar with, and knew would move, predictably, into the rebuilding time. 

It's hard to remember specifics because each day was dealing with the moment, but sometime during the fall, Jed complained with greater vigor of his pain.  It was butt pain.  He kept telling us that he needed a different cushion, and, or, greater support.  We massaged, we cushioned, we supported.  We ordered stuff that might help, we brought in the specialists.  We even convinced his doctor that perhaps he had structural damage, and thus he had an MRI.  He got steroid shots in his butt, and we even got his medical marijuana card, and provided him with tinctures, rubs and even happy cookies to help alive the pain.  Nothing much worked, even though everything helped a bit. 

This is how we spent the fall and winter times.  The holidays.  He was rather miserable, but didn't complain.  We had Thanksgiving.  We had Christmas.  Both were times where he asked to be in his room much sooner than his usual pattern.  He tried to participate.  He wanted to participate.  He didn't have the strength.  We continued to believe that this was just his, "fall/winter thing" and would pass. 

I brought Hospice in.  I was so comforted by their presence.  They provided the medication, the nurse, the bather.  I said to them, "Jed won't qualify for Hospice because he's not dying."  They told me that because he is "declining," he would qualify, and I gladly accepted the help.  I had no idea.
I even thought that I was somehow cheating the system for having them be so helpful to us.  The help was so welcome, because we were so tired. 

So, we were a marijuana, hospice, try-anything-family, and Jed was open to it all.  Pain alleviation was primal and we weren't doing very well. 

I left for a few days to Colorado.  Elnora came to help Ubaldo.  While I was gone, the three of them agreed that they needed to get more help.  The hospital and an ambulance seemed wise.  When I got home, Jed was in the hospital, but seemed in good spirits.  We were required to wear masks and gowns because even the hospital thought he had the flu. 

His brother, whom we hadn't seen for donkey's years came to visit, and Jed and I watched the playoffs for the Super Bowl.  We had a great day and expected him to be sent home soon.  Even the hospital felt good about him, and put him in a less intensive room.  He was moved up to another floor and we were given the hope that it was because he needed less monitoring.  That night, after making sure he had all the comfort and care that I felt he needed, I said good night to him, wrote my phone number on the white board, told the nurse to call me any time, and went home for some much needed rest. 

The next morning I woke rested and happy that the hospital hadn't called, took my shower, gathered a few things I thought Jed might want and went to his room.  He wasn't there!  The bed was empty.  Shock set in, but before I went crazy the nurse saw me.  "Mrs. Young, we tried to call you many times......"  I looked at my phone for the first time in the day and, yes, indeed, they had tried to call me, but I had heard none of them.  Was the phone on silent?  Was I just too tired?  The story unfolded.  He had been intubated in the night and taken to intensive care. 

This was the beginning of the end, but I still didn't get it.  After several days of intubation, he was extubated.  Bravo!  We're back on track.  Why did those people do that in the first place?  Timing was perfect and Jed's son, Matt, visited.  He and Jed had a wonderful time together.  Tori too.  Pure joy. 

We were keeping a vigil.  Ubaldo, Elnora, Candy, Daniel and I.  One night Cynthia took her time so that we might get rest.  But after he was extubated and we were all feeling good about his wellness, we agreed, with his urging, to go home and let us all rest.  It was in that night, another Sunday night, that he was intubated again. 

So here we were, tired and confused.  He was draining fluid by the liters, he couldn't speak, because of the tubes and they had ruled out pneumonia and almost everything else by many tests and x-rays.
The doctors were stumped.  It wasn't flu.  It wasn't pneumonia.  It wasn't congestive heart failure.  But, no one knew what it was.  Fluid kept draining.  On Monday or maybe Tuesday, they did a CAT scan and, there it was.  Cancer.  Cancer, of all things.  Five years of struggle with everything else and it would be cancer. Esophageal cancer.  It was a confident diagnosis.  Stage.....way too far gone to do anything but pray. Pathology would verify on Thursday. 

Wednesday night I didn't want to sleep.  I tried not to sleep.  It was that crazy, I need some control here, if I don't sleep, tomorrow won't come, kind of night.  I finally, out of exhaustion, slept. I knew that Thursday would be a very tough day. 

With little sleep and even less confidence, I was awaken by my father, who said, "wake up, Sherry.  Today will be a hard day, but it won't be too bad.  Get up.  Put on some make up and don't forget to comb your hair."  That wouldn't be too big of a deal for most people, but my father has been dead for about 3 years.  Wow!  When he woke me up, I was empowered.  I knew that whatever was to come would be okay.  After all, I got first had verification that Jed would be met by some remarkable people.  I had energy and confidence that literally came out of heaven.  Yep, indeed, I got up, put on some make up, combed my hair and faced the day.

The pathology report came in as we thought.  Jed wouldn't live much longer.  So, now I had to get him home.  He was not to die in the hospital.   Talks with the doctors, talks with the hospice coordinator, talks with the sweet nurse................"This is how we will do it......"  I was directional and made sure everyone was in line.  The doctors thought Jed would die in transient.  I told him, "no, he will not.  He will get home."  We got everyone working toward getting Jed  home. 

The ambulance backed up to our driveway and we rolled Jed out and put him in his bed.  We were provided morphine and had marijuana tincture.  We were set.  Jed knew, and probably was happy, that he was dying.  He took moments with everyone present.  John, Grace, Alicia, Mario, Jennifer, Daniel, Sarah, Candy, Elnora, Ubaldo and Me.  The moments were rich and important.  Words were said that will hold lives together forever. 

And then everyone went home or to bed.  Ubaldo and I stayed with Jed.  I sat in the chair holding his hand, and Ubaldo laid beside him with his hand on his heart.  Sometime in the night I got cold and stood up to get a blanket.  With that blanket, I fell asleep.  Jed died then, with Ubaldo's hand on his heart, and me asleep, holding his hand. 

After that, it was sterile.  The nurse came to pronounce him dead, the Neptune Society came to pick him up.  They counted pills and asked lots of questions.  I wanted to be beside Jed, but there were too many questions to be answered.  He was lifted up and taken away and a cheap plastic white rose was left on his pillow.  I threw that in the trash.  Don't cheapen his life with a stupid plastic rose. 

And so, he died.  We went the next day to the Neptune Society to pay for their services.  And now I have a box that is supposedly him.  Sometimes I imagine it as Pandora's box, but with a twist.  If I opened it, out would come all the joy and memories.  Out would come his laughter and the twinkle in his eyes.  Out would come his cussing and irreverence.  Out would come the adventures and the risks.  I would grab at them.  And then, I would be told that I already have them all.  They are in my heart and my memory and that I am so blessed for having them when they were real.

I so didn't want him to die.  But, as dying goes, he did it vey well and we will all be the better for it.