This last week has been a difficult one. Three weeks ago this coming Saturday, my wife, mhari_lindhaven, and I learned that her mother was in the hospital for a rather serious condition that caused a lot of bleeding. Enough that over the course of 2 weeks she needed close to 12 pints of it, and was starting to show signs of rejecting the transfusions. They discovered where it was coming from and made a difficult choice about a week ago to go ahead and risk surgery. (She being 88 years old.) Well, it was rocky, but she made it through it. And seemed to start to be getting a little better on the 2nd day of recovery. Then, this past Saturday, things went bad. She started to be in more and more pain. And… well, the end was near.
We received the call about this aspect of things in the early evening of Saturday and promised the family we were on our way. At that time they were giving her 24-48 hours to live. We were worn out from low sleep amounts (especially Mhari) and decided that they only way we could make it up safely was to get at least a little sleep and head out in the wee hours of Sunday morning. I made the non-refundable hotel arrangements for 2-nights. Sleep was not easy to get. And there were more phone calls. Including one telling us that they had sedated her and were not going to be letting her wake again. So on that note I got to sleep for about 3.5 hours. Mhari said she got maybe 1.
My alarm goes off at 10 mins to 4am, and I hit snooze. It goes off again and I hit snooze and start working to wake when Mhari walks in and says ‘Mom’s gone…’. I woke groggily and tried to comfort her. Her sister at called to give her the news just after the second time my alarm went off.
So the event that we were dreading for two weeks had actually happened.
It didn’t take us too long to get everything together. And we were out the door and awake enough for me to drive at 6am. We didn’t stop much on the road up. Just for restroom breaks and take-out fast food. Sunday traffic was light all the way up. And the beautiful scenry tried to cheer us up. Mt Shasta was bare, not a cloud in sight. And barely anything frozen on it other than it’s permafrost. Phone calls interspersed our conversations. Before we got in we learned that the Funeral would be Wed at 11am, as that was the earliest it could be arranged. It would appear Mhari’s mom had long planned for these days, and had everything paid for and taken care off. All her children had to do was confirm and finalize the plans.
We drove into the hotel parking lot around 5:30pm. Checked into the hotel and got over to the restaurant where the family had gathered to honor their lost mother/grandmother/great-grandmother and friend. There was much talking, some crying, and a little laughter. For Mrs G. had never wanted her children to be sad ones, and each one is intelligent and have a sense of humor. When the gathering broke up, we all agreed to meet again at the Funeral on Wednesday. Mhari’s son kieferskunk (my stepson!) and his wife firesplace (my daughter-in-law!… sorry, still not used to having such creatures) arranged to join us the next day for an outing.
So, back to the hotel. Mhari’s brothers and sisters, in wanting her to feel included in everything, had tasked her with typing up, proof-reading and preparing the obit they had written on three tattered pieces of notebook paper. It was obvious in looking at these scraps that it had been something more than one of her siblings had worked on, hashing over how best to say things. Mhari decoded their handwriting and got it typed into the computer I had brought and hooked up to the hotel’s wireless connection. We got it finished, but didn’t quite understand the directions in how we were to submit it. In the morning we called the mortuary and got that straightened out and sent in.
So, it’s Monday. Mhari, Kieferskunk, Firesplace and I gather after breakfast (Kieferskunk and Firesplace had a snafu with their phones that you could read about in their blogs of things, which delayed us a little tiny amount) and we drove up in two cars to Portland and the place I had decided would be a good way to sooth Mhari a little… Powell’s City of Books! I had only heard about it. And it is amazing. Most of a city block of independent bookstore. Multiple stories, 30k sq feet of books! We bought nearly $200 of books there. And had a nice hour of chatting with ‘our kids’ in the Cafe while Firesplace worked remotely and waited for a phone call that never came. When we left, the ‘kids’ went off north, and we headed south back to our hotel.
Dinner was at another of Mrs. G’s favorite restaurants… the Blue Willow. A wonderful Chinese restaurant with good prices and portion sizes WAY more than expected. We were sadly unable to eat even half of what we ordered, used to, as we were, to smaller portion sizes. Thus filled, we returned to our hotel, puttered away at reading, playing on our Nintendo DS’s and the computers and generally trying to hide some from our grief.
Tuesday arrived and I went down to the hotel front desk and got our stay extended. When I mentioned that we were staying the extra night for a funeral, the extended us a special Bereavement rate. It did help on the expenses. Now we had no obligations… But I had plans. We went to the Lancaster Mall and I got shorn of the long hair that had been bothering me, shopped for a good black shirt to wear to the Funeral (and also found one for Mhari) as neither of us commonly wears plain blacks. (What black shirts either of us had to that point had convention artwork and sayings on them. Or in my case, it was a polo shirt with a Klingon symbol on the left chest and the words ‘Star Trek Experience – Las Vegas Hilton’ on the sleeve… and really not really right for a funeral.) I also picked up some other shirts for work, and a couple of hats… the prices were good, and there is no sales tax there!
Soon it rolled into evening and we headed for the only Frys Electronics in Oregon. Yes, I needed to geek out a little, but it was also a darn good half way point to meet up with whyaylooh at. He came down after his work and joined us there. We went to the local Sheri’s for dinner and didn’t leave for hours. We spent the time chatting and catching up and helping Mhari further through the pain of her loss. Thanks Buddy! It was good to see you. Wish it could have been under better circumstances.
So now Tuesday was over. We went back to the hotel and I got things all pre-packed and ready for us to check out in the morning before heading to the Funeral. I had a little of a hard time getting to sleep. I think Mhari did, too… but to be honest that night seems to have mostly slipped out of my memory.
Finally we got to Wednesday. It was a day of sadness… we got to the Funeral early, and we had driven past the house that Mhari pointed out to me as the first house she lived in. The service was sweet. Others have blogged about it better than I can. It was reverent, there were tears, there were prayers. There was laughter, there was celebration of life. I remember most the tale from one of the neighbors that spoke. She spoke of having a problem with the five people in the front row (where my wife and her brothers and sisters were sitting). She was jealous of them. Of how much they loved their mother and how much she loved them. It was a humorous story that celebrated Mrs G in a special way almost more touching, at least to me, than all else that was said by anyone that was not family. She helped all of us remember the good, and not the sad.
Finally, and yet all too soon, the Funeral was over. There was some chatting and sharing. I got to meet one of my wife’s best friends, a cousin of her’s, from her childhood and got to thank her for being that friend to the woman that means so much to me. I met others, but she’s the one that stands out.
From the Funeral home it was a short drive to the cemetery. There only the close family gathered to place Mrs G’s urn in the ground. They remembered her by putting her most loved treasures… her wedding ring and a bit of robe, as well as pictures of her and her husband, into the urn with her. More loving memories were spoken, and they all said goodbye to the woman that was my third mother (the first two were my own mother, and my grandmother). I wish I had had more time to get to know Mrs. G. I really, really do. I will miss her a lot. I will miss losing in Rummikub to her. I will miss playing dominoes with her at Christmas time. I will miss hearing the stories and memories… goodbye, Mrs G.
So… after that the family went to a local pizza joint and I had some of the best pizza I’ve had in a long time. The place is called Paddington’s. Somewhere in Salem, OR. After that, the family scattered to the ‘four winds’. And we started the drive back.
As it wasn’t so early in the morning when we left, and we had had a tiring first half of the day, we stopped about half way home, had steak at a Cattleman’s, and stayed in a hotel for another night. Then finished the drive home yesterday.
The world is different. Someone we love has passed into whatever comes after this life.
I… like her family, strongly believe that she is with her husband… likely out fishing someplace, and Mrs G is catching up Mr G on all the wonderful and amazing things his children have gotten up to since he left.
For more about these days, read Mhari’s, Kieferskunk’s and Fireplace’s blogs.