I’m flying high, but I’m coming down fast. At a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet, I’m settled nervously into my aisle seat as this big bird soars through the skies across the Sierra’s. I’m tired, coming off an amazing weekend, which was not only emotionally overwhelming, but a complete and utterly unexpected surprise. It’s taken me several days just to digest it all, and this morning I had planned to use my brief break from work to write a whole bunch of thank you notes. I wanted to get comfy, and really focus on the words I would write to each and every individual, letting them know how special they are to me and how appreciative I am of their deeply touching messages in celebration of my milestone birthday.
But, before I stepped from bed to take my morning shower, the phone rang and I recognized immediately that I would be racing off to the airport. The sound of my moms voice was really all I needed, but her words confirmed it. At 90 years old, she has had an amazing life, even bouncing back from an unexpected heart attack just five months ago. All the stars were aligned for her then…she collapsed in the lobby area of her independent living community. Help was immediate, emergency response was there within moments and they were able to get her to a hospital and actually save her. I mean SAVE her. The EMT’s and doctors both told me she’d had no blood pressure in the ambulance, yet somehow they miraculously were able to quickly get three stents into one blocked artery. They tried to clear a 2nd blocked artery as well, but without luck. After three quick days in ICU, she was home with instructions to simply return to life as she knew it before her heart attack happened.
My mom had taken nothing more than vitamin supplements and aspirin for her entire life. Having to now take an assortment of prescription meds has been somewhat of a mental hurdle. She’s always said prescription meds don’t ‘agree’ with her, so as a result, she becomes acutely aware of any little side effect that might rear its ugly head. And she knows what to look for, because she reads about the side effects in detail. That information comes stapled to the Walgreens bag each time she has her prescriptions filled.
Two mornings ago I wondered why I hadn’t yet received her early morning greeting, so I called her at 11 a.m. to check in. Instantly I was aware she wasn’t well. Her voice was weak, she was still in bed and feeling dizzy. After some discussion, I finally convinced her to call the lobby and ask for an EMT to check on her. I stayed on the phone with her until they arrived, less than five minutes later.
It seemed she only needed an adjustment to her blood pressure meds, which the doctor on site was able to manage quickly for her. Within hours, she was feeling like herself again. Yesterday she had a very good day.
This morning, her weak voice was alarming. She said she’s been unable to get warm, and has opted to ‘stay cozy’ in bed, feeling unusually fatigued.
The symptoms my Dad experienced just before he collapsed into my arms were the same. Unable to get warm, and feeling fatigued. He slipped away from us that evening, even though the EMT’s had him speaking in the ambulance, and the ER doc had him speaking upon arrival. But when mom and I finally got to the hospital ourselves (horrifyingly delayed by rush hour traffic in a construction zone), he wasn’t responsive when I raced to his side and said “Dad, we’re here.” In an instant, I knew he had already embarked upon his next journey.
So, now here I am, wiping tears away as I type, praying that this isn’t Mom’s time quickly approaching, but knowing full well that it could be. We have talked long distance, multiple times a day, for all of my adult life. When my Dad was alive, multiple times a day was still true, but conversations were substantially longer because I spoke at length with each one of them individually, several times a day. Yes, on a daily basis.
‘What on earth (you are probably wondering) could you possibly have to talk to your parents about on a daily basis?’
LIFE. Everything and anything. They both led very full and accomplished lives and were married to each other for over 65 years. They experienced The Great Depression during their youth, and then separation during World War II while my Dad proudly served his country in the Armed Forces. They raised three children; one a wild-child, one critically ill, and one who was afraid of her shadow (that would be me). I grew up to find a man who has loved me for 37 years. We have a family of our own, with three wonderful children, two terrific daughter-in-laws, and a beautiful one year old grandchild. They all bring us such great joy, and I often wonder how we managed to get so lucky.
Yes, there’ve been ENDLESS things to talk with my parents about. They’ve provided comfort, counsel, wisdom and clarity. They’ve been my biggest fans, my biggest confidantes, and my biggest role models for each and every day of their lives.
As I gaze out the window, I’m noticing the light has shifted as we fly further and further away from the fading sun. I weep silently at the anticipation of what may lie ahead. And to distract myself, I’m reflecting on all the very special messages my dear friends and loved ones had composed and then presented to me (in a hardcover bound book format) at the surprise party, which caught me totally off-guard. I walked into the restaurant with a wet head, for heavens sake. (Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t take time to use a hair dryer…it just seems an unwise use of time, because I know full well it’ll dry all on its own within 20 to 30 minutes).
Each of their messages began with this:
‘What I love about Ann is…’
And each one left me moved beyond words.
Life….It’s the ultimate journey. No one lives forever. But when the time does come to slip away, knowing that others truly see how you LIVED is the ultimate gift.
Thank you dear ones, for your ongoing love and friendship. It means more to me than words can express.