Friday, December 21, 2007

When There Are No Words

I went to see Lynn today. I knew it was going to be tough. Christmas- hell, she loved Christmas. She never had much money to buy presents but she'd find that one perfect thing to give, maybe tiny, but perfect. She loved the lights, the things she'd collected over the years to decorate with. She loved the cards and the songs and the colors and the tastes and the joy.

I remember the year her disease really started taking hold in a cruel way. She was still living in her house and a friend had brought her a tree and she got out all her decorations and then....
she couldn't figure out how to put the lights on or how to put her baubles and ornaments on. When I got to her house, she was crying. "How did I forget?" she wailed.

So I knew, between my own fragile state and the whole situation, it was going to be hard.

I went inside and she was parked in that spot all by herself in the hallway, next to the pay phone. I'd brought her some strawberry ice cream and I wheeled her outside to sit under the tree and I started feeding her the pink goop. She's sort of like a baby now - if you touch her lips, she opens her mouth. I fed her some and we sat and let the breeze blow over us and she was agitated. She kept trying to get out of the chair that she was tied to. I usually say something like, "Where are you going, girl? It's okay. Now settle down."

Today all I could do was pat her. It's not okay and I wasn't in the mood to lie about it or try to make it any better than it is.

There's a guy who works there named Lee Roy, who likes to come and talk to me and he came out to change a light bulb that blew in the rain last night. We got to talking, as usual, and then he asked me, "Did you know her before she was like this?"

That was all it took. The dam broke. I started sobbing.

"Oh yeah," I said. And then I tried to tell him what Lynn used to be like. I used words like "Hardest working woman you ever met," and "Oh, my, she loved to dance," and "She loved music so much."

"We can't understand these things," he said. "Only the man upstairs. As we get older, all will be revealed."

I listened politely while I fed my friend like a baby, one spoonful of cold, sweet, pink ice cream after another, but I was mad. Mad at God, mad at whatever evilness had caused my friend to get sick. Eventually, I said, "Yeah, well, all that works better if you believe in the man upstairs." I wouldn't normally say anything like that, but I did today. Lee Roy had tried to make me feel better and it did nothing for me. Not one damn thing. If there is a God, then what the hell is he thinking? There's so much suffering going on in this world that I can't even begin to fathom it. I can't even fathom what Lynn suffers and I'm sitting right there watching it.

He knew how I was feeling and soon took off to go do another chore and I sat with Lynn some more. "I'm sorry, baby," I said to her. "All I have in me is to sit with you some today." I held her hand while I cried, and although usually I don't even think she knows where her hand is, today she pulled my hand to her mouth and kissed it.

I broke down again and when she grew more agitated, I took her back inside to see if I could find a nurse to give her the medication to calm her down.

I kissed her to tell her good-bye when I was leaving and she kissed me back, which she hasn't done in forever, which caused me to cry even harder. The nurse, seeing my distress, asked me several times if I was all right.

I said I was, although that was a lie. She said she'd give her her meds and there was another employee there who really seems to care a lot for Lynn and he said he'd take care of her and so I left.

On my way out, I looked out for Lee Roy, hoping to see him to tell him that I appreciated the fact that he'd tried to make me feel better. His wanting to make me feel better had helped, even if his words hadn't.

But I didn't see him and there was nothing for it but to get in my car and drive away.


  1. Ms. Moon,

    You're doing what's right. You're where you're needed -- for Lynn and for yourself.

    You are not alone with your thoughts about God and wondering about His role in all of this. Everybody has those same questions. How you allow your questions to guide you toward the answers may help you along the journey, be it pleasant or not, but utltimately to the end, where peace shall be found.

    I pray that your strength,compassion and understanding qualities that you already possess will multiply to cover your needs to help you and Lynn make it through this journey, and then you afterward.

    Lee Roy sounds like he's trying to help. I once knew a guy named Lee Roy who was like that. He was from Homosassa.

    Hang in there, girl. Enjoy your Christmas and have a happy new year.

    Miss T

  2. Ms. T- I think that some of us will never be at peace with the questions we have. I often envy people of faith but I don't think it's in my soul to be one of them.
    And that is not something that can be forced.
    One never knows, though.
    And this Lee Roy comes from Miami, I believe. He is a nice guy.
    Thank you for what you said and you have a great Christmas and happy new year, too.
    It's all about the family, isn't it?

  3. Merluna, the strength of your heart is measured in the power of grief. Your friend knew when she was whole, and still knows deep down the strength of that love.

    I believe the notion of god, a deity with some hand in our existence and some role in our after life, is simply a human response to our intrinsic insignificance in the universe. A form of group dynamics as it applies to self-worth and fear. We can no more explain our complex existence than we can the scale of the universe or the fact that we will one day be utterly gone.

    Man has struggled with this basic and unutterably distatsteful reality since the dawn of reason. Short of insanity, our collective awareness hungers for an explanation—a comfort against the abyss.

    Logic tells me, when I look at the knowledge we have today of the physical universe is that we are a complex spec that is totally insignificant in our current evolutionary state. Is there a metaphysical and as yet unexplained additional dimension to our existence? I see no evidence nor logical place for it.

    No, I believe the metaphysical aspect to our live's, the comfort we seek in understanding death, and the reason we need to feel joy in all our experience's, good and bad, is simply as the Buddhists, Hindus and many other theologies practice, it is your mind. Your spirit is you.

    What you do for your friend is enormous. What she means to you is all of the things you remember as well as what you can do for her in her decline. Your pain is as real as hers, and your grief only highlights and promotes her former life and happiness. Rejoice in who she is, and take comfort that you are here to help her now, and remember all that has come before.

    I think that clinging to the belief that some deity is responsible, that we will be rewarded through death (irony number 637: be good and santa brings gifts, blow up innocents and go to virgins in the afterlife!) is simply weak and giving in to the comfort of group thinking. All religions follow these silly structures, and the great theologians seem to miss the point that it isn't because it proves there is some deity, it is because it is a fabrication of billions of souls struggling with the same impossible questions.

    And I'm sorry, but it is all to true that the love you take is equal to the love you make, for it is in you. It is yours.

    Love and hugs through the holidays to you and all your kin. I will sing a song for Lynn.


  4. I agree with what you said, B Boy and spoken like the true Presbyterian minister's son you are.
    Don't you wish though, sometimes, that our brains didn't work this way? That we truly believed that something good would come of everything? That there is a purpose to everything? Forget the damn afterlife. I don't care anything about that and tend to think that when we die, these so-called spirits of ours just huff right off to the energy recycle bin. But it's the here-and-now that concerns me
    Sing Lynn a song. She especially loved James Taylor. Well, she still does. So there!

  5. Oh my, that is so terrible, so hard. Lynn sounds so wonderful, I'm so sorry to hear this is happening to her. No, there is nothing fair about it. I'm glad you are visiting her. She knows, I just know it. The way you told the story was incredible. I cried along with you. I'm sending good thoughts her way, and to you. Take care.

  6. You know, part of me thinks I shouldn't write about Lynn. That it's almost an invasion of her privacy. But I also feel that if I do write about her, at least a few people know who she is. She is NOT just a woman with a disease who lives in a nursing home and who suffers.
    Of course everyone in a nursing home is someone's mother or sister or friend or uncle or brother.
    And they are all so lonely.

  7. I think writing about Lynn is a good thing. It's not like Lynn isn't still Lynn. You keep her real and alive, if suffering -- and it doesn't hurt the rest of us one bit to suffer with her and with you as you both miss so terribly the life she had. :( We don't want to tiptoe around Lynn -- I'm sure she would hate that! The whole thing SUCKS. Tears and telling friends seems pretty darned appropriate!

  8. Thank you so much, Lopo, for saying that. I think you're right.
    I miss her so much- the Lynn she was. Writing about her makes her still alive somehow, which she IS.
    Which she very much is.

  9. And you may the only one who lets her know you know it frigging sucks rather than patronizing her. You're a GOOD friend. GOOD. Few people could or would still be there for her sometimes feeling like reading and sometimes just in tears -- which is how it always is with our best friends. Oh, Ms. Moon, this just sucks sooooo bad for both of you.

  10. And yet, I feel huge amounts of guilt that I am not keeping her here- which, as I have said, would be impossible without a team.
    Leaving her there, surrounded by people who never saw her dance, never knew her when she was funny and quick and could work like four men to support her family- it's a terrible thing.

  11. I struggled with this when I worked at a nursing home a few years ago. I don't see the point of people who are allowed to go on living when they can't really live... That sounded bad but I mean it in a good way - I hate to see people suffer or not be able to live a good quality life - especially if they've known it before. My dad's mother lived in a nursing home for 12 years. She had a living will that she did not want to live on machines or live that way, but one day when she was 'gone' the doctor asked my aunt if my grandma had a living will and my aunt said 'no'. So...instead of living like that for less than a year, she lived like that for over a decade. Not knowing who she was, living on a food IV, living in a bed... I hold some anger toward my aunt for being so selfish and having no guts. It wasn't her life to make that decision... Anyway I pray and hope for the best - though I have no clue what that is in this situation. You are a wonderful person - so supportive and loving - especially during this hard time.


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