wings and things

“Just around the corner….”

on September 2, 2014

Lately, Anthony has been asking me more and more frequently where his mother is, and sometimes he asks me to ring her. Mostly I evade the question or just say that she is busy cooking, but the other day I ventured, “She’s gone, remember?” This truth made him sad and quiet for some time and then he was a bit embarrassed for having forgotten.

One of the best things about this nursing home is its meals. Lunch is often a roast served up in much the same way as many of the elderly residents remember their mother’s offerings. The photo below shows Anthony’s meal the other day before he demolished it – roast beef, potatoes and pumpkin, with cauliflower gratin, peas and gravy.

photo (4)

Last week, my mother, brother, niece, Ming and I attended the funeral of one of our oldest and most special friends, V, a woman who first taught me to drink from a straw when I was little, and for whom Anthony had a lovely affinity. My funniest memory is of V staying here on the farm one night and 4-year-old Ming (who used to sleepwalk) clambering into bed with her in the early hours and cuddling her nose into the wall. I remember getting up and not being able to find him until I discovered him fast asleep with his little body curved around V who looked a little alarmed! To V’s sons, siblings and family, your mother was a legend.

Yesterday, I attended the annual memorial service at Anthony’s nursing home. I dumped my bag in Anthony’s room, gave him a quick kiss and explained that I was going into the next section to pay my respects and volunteer as helper in the serving of tea and coffee, cleaning up etc. He wanted to come with me until I told him it would be like a church service! Once I was seated and reading through the list of people who had died, I was shocked to find that there were 18 because I only knew of two, J and A. J was in the room next door to Anthony’s for over a year, and A was a beautiful, tiny woman who used to get great pleasure from holding the dolls that look like real babies. The fact that 16 other people had died in different sections of the nursing home during the past year jolted me and, looking around the room, I spotted J’s wife and her tear-filled eyes blinked at mine, anticipating the hug that we would share later.

After the service (in volunteer mode), I helped Ev (my volunteer ‘boss’), to rearrange the room into a cafe whilst, out on the lawn, the people who had lost someone released balloons filled with wattle seeds and helium. On the small crowd’s return, on walkers, in wheelchairs, on foot, I served tea and coffee, made friends with a few residents and volunteers I’d never met before, gave hugs where it seemed acceptable, and pinpointed T, J’s widow, to give her my sympathy. After all, she and I had been visiting our husbands at around the same time every day for a year. But her red-rimmed eyes eventually dismissed me and I moved away to help Ev with the clearing up of cups and saucers, tables and chairs. Once all of that was done, Ev thanked me and said I could go back to Anthony, so I did.

But, just seconds later, I was told by the nurse-in-charge that M, a 91-year-old man two rooms down from Anthony’s, had died in the night. Two days previous, I had hugged R, M’s wife, when she told me that M had pneumonia and I had just begun to, shyly, befriend the many members of this family and learn all of their names. Now that M is gone, I may never see R and the family again and yesterday afternoon, when they all came to clear out M’s room, I was very careful to keep a distance, to just speak to one of M’s daughters before withdrawing into Anthony’s room, closing the door and crying in his bathroom.

A bit later, Anthony hugged my grief away enough for me to be normal, even jovial, but the experience of losing this many people I cared about in such a relatively short space of time is difficult.

I remember so well the day that Anthony’s mother, ‘Gar’, died because I was with her, in the hospital, 33 years ago. She and my father died within less than a year of each other and, at the time, my teenage heart didn’t cope very well with losing two such enormously important mentors and the grief was unbearable.

But now, with the benefit of an additional 30ish years of hindsight, insight and love, I think that next time Anthony asks where his mother is I will say, “Just around the corner, Ants.”

23 responses to ““Just around the corner….”

  1. susanpoozan says:

    What a sad day but I loved your final thought.

  2. Vicki says:

    As Susan said…….What a sad day.

    Such a large number of people (who died), but I guess, inevitable. No matter how prepared family and friends are in this situation, the shock is no less.

    I have great admiration and respect for volunteers, carers and other staff who contribute so much to the final days of these special and so beloved folk. I still remember my Mother’s stories (she had several jobs cooking in nursing homes in her 50s), like the joy one 97 yr old man got when my Mother took in new stamps for his collecting hobby. And…..the other stories like one lady who got all dressed up with her best dress and lipstick on Thursdays “when her daughter was coming in to see her.” Sadly, the daughter never ever came (in all the time my Mother worked there).

  3. ksbeth says:

    i love this post, jules. it is so well written, and from the heart and that is the perfect answer next time you are asked. hugs

  4. My heart breaks for you.

    I love the poetry of your last line.

  5. Just around the corner is a great way to think of it. I truely believe in an afterlife where we will have association with those who we’ve known and loved. They are_awaiting our arrival from “school” this earth life where we grow and develop for the next stage. A bit like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.

  6. Your love and compassion are so strong Julie. I like to think Anthony’s mum is just around the corner.

  7. mimijk says:

    Love you Jules – though I’ve never met you. Your heart and your soul are magnificent.

  8. jensine says:

    You are quite something

  9. What a day fraught with emotion! Your last thought “around the corner” is so lovely, the perfect thing to say to Anthony. 🙂

  10. Thinking of you Julie… I can only sense what you’re feeling… Diane

  11. Hello Jules. I love the photo of the meal and it looks a grand meal too. I love how you mentioned that it would have been like a meal his mother would have made and then spoke about his mother later in the post. That was really touching.

  12. letstalkaboutfamily says:

    Thanks for a beautiful post. One of the “problems” of knowing so many elderly people is losing them one by one. I live in a community of “seniors” age 55 plus and even here we have spells where we lose many people at once either to move to a higher level of care, or on into the next life. It is sad each time, even for those I don’t know that well. I like the concept of ” around the corner”! I will have to remember that.

  13. Terry says:

    I know that your post hit home with me. Part of the reason my healing from losing Al is I am remembering. I go back and re-live my past. Times with family and friends, all now deceased or not to be seen. Many come into our lives for one purpose. Maybe to console or offer advice and then disappear our of my life. With Al being so ill and Hospice and ministers involved, I now see none of them and I feel sadness, and an empty heart. The more I feel empty, the larger void I feel. Life shows us we are maturing into our own age of elderly as we are able to look back and see our paths and who has walked along side of us. Life is good, our memories are wonderful; but how much better if we could cling to those we have met. Hugs and love my friend

  14. Julie, thank you for your volunteer work. Thank you for making a difference in this world through your caring acts. ❤
    Diana xo

  15. The trouble with nursing homes. The percentage of people dying there is higher, but we have to accept that. Good post, Julie.

  16. tersiaburger says:

    On Sunday we had our First Annual Memorial Day at Stepping Stone Hospice. We had more than 300 people attend. We also christened the grandson of a patient who is in the In Patient Unit , who was too weak to attend the church service. We released 1000 balloons in beautiful pinks and blues. It was Vic’s 40th birthday. It was so emotional. You are doing an amazing job!

  17. Sometimes it is kinder not to tell the honest truth. “Around the corner” is quite beautiful, actually.

  18. elizabeth says:

    I like your new response Jules. 🙂

  19. Mum and I were talking today about how most people thought nan would die soon after pop and how we feel the only reason she hasn’t is because she doesn’t know he has passed away she will often say he is with her laying next to her or sitting by the window which gets both me and mum as pop used to like to sit by the window and look outside. The nursing home moved her to another room she is back in the room that she had shared with pop and she asked today who was in pops bed which was a surprise as she is now sharing a room with someone else so there is someone different in pops bed

  20. Lynda says:

    You are a remarkable woman, Julie, you choose to make a difference in so many lives. What a gift.

    We used to visit Bob’s mom regularly and I don’t ever recall making friends with anyone at her facility, not even the staff.

  21. The poignant wave of life continues with the loving grace of your huge heart shining through. Your new response is lovely and comforting to read. Love to you.

  22. we are forever just around the corner:) sometimes it is so hard to look at someone who (like you) still has her husband while she has lost hers. you are so kind but please take care of yourself.

    it is so hot and humid here i am really ready for cooler weather. i guess it is going to be warmer there soon is that right?

    saturday we are having a birthday gathering for chris, he went with me to pick out the cake and he said he wants a dinosaur on his cake! my sister will be here on thurs and i am so happy to see her again soon. of course there will be other family members that will not be so easy and fun to see.

    you continue to amaze me with your love and understanding, sending you love and hugs my friend

  23. Judith Post says:

    Aaah, that’s the thing about nursing centers. They’re a last, caring, exit station for places unknown.

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