Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Last Days

Last week, I found out that my friend, Darlene, is dying and only has a couple of weeks to live. As soon as I heard, I knew I had to go see her. But knowing what I had to do and actually doing it were two different things.

Since I had a four-day weekend, I thought I would go down and visit her on Friday. I did not. Instead I visited Savers and Goodwill and tried to ignore the fact that my friend was in a hospice with only a few days left of her life.

On Saturday, Todd asked me if I was going to visit... I mumbled something about having to call her sister, and of course, did not. The energy I put into ignoring what I should have done on Friday wore me down. I was lethargic and spent most of the day at home, in my sweats, wondering when the best time to call Darlene's sister would be.

Sunday I woke up and just felt that I needed to get down to see Darlene. I didn't call her sister, who probably wasn't at home anyway. Instead, I called the hospice, discovered that I could come any time, and wrote down directions. I hopped into the shower, threw on some clothes, and drove down to Fair Oaks before I could rethink the trip.

The trip should've only taken me 2 hours and 11 minutes, but of course the directions I got were wrong. After driving aimlessly up and down Elkhorn/Greenback Blvd, I stopped at Long's and got a map. After locating the hospice on the map, I was back on the road and at the hospice at the 3 hour mark. The timing was probably good, as I got there after lunch.

Everyone I spoke to at the hospice seemed to know Darlene, so finding her room was not difficult. That didn't surprise me; with as many friends as Darlene has, I'm sure her room has been a hot spot of activity.

When I entered her room, her sister was there. I reintroduced myself, and Lynette guided me over to Darlene's bed, and placed me in her vision (apparently she is having trouble seeing, so in order for her to focus on me, I had to be directly in her sight area). Darlene had recognized my voice, so I thought the visit would go well.

I was wrong.

Not that the visit was a disaster; it wasn't. It was just very awkward at times. I talked with Darlene, and every time she offered up a bit of conversation, her speech would either just end or something odd would be inserted into a sentence. For example, she was telling me about her flowers, and then she said something like "and the bunny was so fluffy and it went down the trail..." In that instance, she stopped, looked confused and then said "I'm not sure why I said that." Sometimes, though, her speech would just fade out... and she looked confused as if wondering what she had been saying and why she had just said what she did.

Darlene looked so frail. It was heart-breaking to see her like that. I did notice, though, that her hands and feet were well manicured. Her sister was obviously taking good care of her.

Lynette was so matter of fact about things. In explaining to me why the room was so plain (there were rooms that were well-appointed and nicely decorated, but this wasn't one of them) she said that this is one of the rooms at the hospice in which only those who weren't going to last long stayed. She said the walls were bare so that they could be decorated with cards and posters and whatever the patient wanted.

I didn't stay long. I was afraid that I was tiring Darlene out, and she still had a visit from her son, daughter, and grandson to deal with later in the afternoon. I said good-bye, and left behind a small gift and card.

I thought I would cry, but I didn't. However, when saying good-bye, I did get teary-eyed. Darlene, though, said not to worry, that it was all in God's plan and she was at peace with it all.

That last part sums up Darlene best...she had accepted the certainty of death and faced it head on, no fear. True to herself, even to the end.

Darlene... I will miss you.


Jedi said...

Thanks for telling that. Yes we all need a Darlene in our lives. I remember when my uncle was dying of cancer. He didn't seem the same guy I remembered before, he was like a snapshot of himself, hard to explain really. I miss him too, he was full of life. Thank goodness you got to see her before she "goes" and thank the Lord for strength.

Pjammy said...

Thank you.

I know what you mean by snapshot, though, because I saw the same in Darlene.