Sunday, March 31, 2002

It's Easter today. I haven't had a moment to write down my thoughts until now. My sister Sharon flew in on Friday to be here for Mom's 80th birthday on Saturday. Friday evening we had a talk with Mom about her finances and her car. She agreed to sell it. Also, we'll be going through the storeage unit and dispersing the items in it asap. Mom explained who she would like to have what items, etc. Betty will store the items for Sharon until she can come up with a car to take them home. I hope to find a pair of Dad's overalls to keep for sentimental reasons.

We celebrated Mom's birthday in fine form. Betty's inlaws provided music. Mom even got up and danced for a bit. Tears came to her eyes, and I daresay a tightness in her heart, as the band played her requested "You are My Sunshine". Chris and I photographed the event. Mom's oldest friend from her high school days, Betty (Clinton) Bjerke, was able to come by and celebrate with her. I took some shots of them together...

It's moments like these that force you to take stock of your own life, to slow down and remember what is truly important. Fortunate is the person who can appreciate these moments for what they are...

Monday, March 25, 2002

This past Saturday, I went to pick up Mom after her hair appointment. I rushed into the mall where the salon is, feeling late. She was walking towards me in her black coat in her black boots holding her black handbag. I say, "Mom, sorry I'm late, were you waiting long?" "No, not long, 5 minutes maybe..." We walk out to the car. As I pull away, Mom says, "I saw a man who looked just like your Dad...I thought it was Gordon for a moment." My heart tightens. This isn't the first time she's said that. While I would never presume to know the depth she feels, I imagine it a bit remembering a time in my own life that someone I held dear left me, and the pain was horrific. That pain pails in comparison to hers. From age 16 to almost age 80, Dad was a constant in her life. "I dream about him," she says between sobs. "I have nothing to live for..." What can I say? There is nothing to say. I try and honor her feelings, and be there for her; that is enough.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

From A Recovering Widow's Poems website:
It's so hard
to be in love
with a dead man

I just want this pain to end!
But it seems
if that happens,
it will be the end
of him.

when the memories of "before"
flood over me
it's like waking up and
realizing it was all a dream.
I even remember the part
in the dream about thinking
"this is too good to be true".

Saturday, March 23, 2002

From JoAnn and Jerry Johnson (Jerry is my Mom's nephew, her sister Clara's son, and our cousin):

Hi Trish,

I just showed and read the website about your mother to Jerry. It was beautifully done! You did a beautiful job of setting up, and what a nice tribute to her.

It sure is sad when we have to see our parents deteriorate in mind or body isn't it? The best we can do is be there for them, and love them. We're
sorry to hear that she's gotten so forgetful and is so lonely, but it would be so hard to lose your companion after so many years!

Thanks for thinking of us! Your mother is lucky to have you girls!

Jo-An & Jerry

Friday, March 22, 2002

will be praying for a safe trip home for yu in this nasty weather. I always wirry about out in this kind of weather so please cALL ME WHEN YOU GET HOME; HAVE YOU HEARD FROM RANDY YET? WONDER IF HE GOT TALK TO ANYONE WHO KNEW DAD. THE BELL IS RINGING SO BEST GO SEE WHat that is all a out
Clear Day. Thanks for the emails tonight. I am glad to see that you are sending me some.

So I hear that Lori Webster was over to see you. That was great. Sure hope she can stop in again; I know you love her visits. How was Gary doing now that his mother died? Did Lori say anything about the funeral?

We are suppose to get bad weather Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Just hope I can make it home during it all; then I don't mind so

Must get to bed - SEND ME ANOTHER EMAIL and don't worry about your typing; it will get better the more you use it.

Love you always and forever - BETTY

Received from Mom on 3/20/02, with my response

did not spell too good i see but hope you cN UNDER STnd it NHOQ IT KEEPS GETTINY WORSEsi SLEEPY. LORI WEBSTER Ws here todY TO SEE ME. HER GIRL my is going to school here this yeR SO WIIL BE lot o lori i expect. we hD A REALY GOOD VISIT. SHE BROUGHT ME SOME GOODYS and i ha e been enjoying yhem she sid she will be back in a couple of days again. good nite and sweet dreams. love you mom

Received this from Mom on 3/6/02

Dear Mom:

Thanks so much for sharing your feelings with me! I miss you much and I miss dad too. He was a wonderful father and I have many great memories of his humor, teasing, tickling and his story-telling abilities.

You were so lucky to have such a great love and to have shared so many years together. I hope Bill and I may have many more years together. Each day is a gift. I'm glad that you and dad got to share many years together in New Mexico and finally got to buy and live in a new home down there.

I look forward to having you visit this summer over part of June and July when the weather is nice and we can get outside more. We can play the old phonograph some more and laugh and cry together over some of those melodies and memories.

Bye for now.

Love, Sharon

-----Original Message-----
From: harrietshort
Sent: Wednesday, March 20, 2002 7:05 PM
To: shannaford

I miss you so much and I am so lonesome for dad that I sit and cry most of the day. I am so lost without Dad and do not know what to do. He was the love of my life and none can ever take his place. He was so special.

He was wonderful father to all of you girls, and the most loving husband you could ever ask for in lifetime; I was so lucky to have him. You girls were most fotunt to have him as our father.

I know he will reap many rewards in heaven for his time spent on earth. He was faithful to me and never strayed. I loved him so much and that is why it is so hard to release him from my heart. I will always love him the rest of my life. No one can ever take his place. Love, Mom

Thursday, March 21, 2002

From our cousin Jackie (whose grandfather Fred Fitzpatrick was a brother to our grandfather, Sheldon Albert Fitzpatrick) after she visited OurMother, and my response to her:
Very depressing! Death is inevitable, its sad but true. The minute that we are born, we know that death will come. When and how or where we don't know. Get as much information from your Mom on her memories now while you can. Its important. Ask her about her mother and father, grandparents etc.

I know what your going thru! God bless you all. My mother had such a bad childhood and would not talk about it until the near end, when she would answer the questions that I asked her. Stella and her two sisters were put in the Poor farm in Hallock until they were 18 yrs old. They were put in their by their Uncle Ward Finney. Their mother wanted them to come to Canada to be with her and her sisters. But that would have been to much trouble to get the birth certificates of the girls so they could go there.

They were born all over while Ella followed her husband on the railroad. They were molested by the man who ran the home. Her grandparents would not except them, as there own.
I believe only Hannah Fitzpatrick Fox came to visit them. They were in a loveless invirement. She said that Mom Anderson was the only real person who loved and cared for them.

When the girls reached the age that they could work then their father Fred Fitzpatrick would have them come to Detroit to work. The only one who stayed in the area was Kay Fitzpatrick she went to work for a Doctor in Fargo and she was the only one that finished school.

Ask your mother about this, will you? Tell her I think of her often, and hope she is happy.

Love Jackie

Thanks for replying so promptly, and for your reactions. Also, I really appreciated your sharing about your mother more. From what I can tell, there were very hard decisions made (sometimes unnecessarily so as you indicated, if someone had cared enough to bother) by both sides of my mother's family, the Fitzgeralds AND the Fitzpatricks. As you may or may not know, my Grandma Fitzpatrick, whose maiden name was Fitzgerald, had two younger brothers who were put up for care after my great grandmother died. Their father, William Fitzgerald, was such an alcoholic, it was probably for the best (he died only 5 years later ran over by a train while intoxicated). I remember my mother saying that her Mom, their sister, would have taken them in, but she had only just gotten married herself, and things were very tight. It was definitely a different time then...

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

From Golnar Fozi's First Day of School, an essay about her mother:
Three years ago, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease...Her neurologist, who lost his own mother to Alzheimer's Disease, explained it best. He said it is as if Alzheimer's Disease patients live in a parallel universe where time is meaningless and nothing makes such sense. Periodically, they stop at a window that gives into our world, and look through it. If we happen to be standing there at that same instant, then we establish a momentary contact before they walk away. The best those of us who love them can possibly hope for is that we are standing there when they look through the window. For a few seconds they see us there and know that we never left them.

Monday, March 18, 2002

Our Mother is quoted.

"...Her mind and soul are always with Dad, and is just waiting for her earthly shell to give up."

It's insights like those, as well as our own experience, etc., that I'm looking for on this blog.

All 3 of us have now been parents as well as partners with people we love dearly, and can surely relate to the trials, tribulations, and blessings of relationships. I think we will be very blessed by writing about them on this blog, and in turn likely bless others...

Sunday, March 17, 2002

I called Mom as usual about 9:30 from church to see if she wanted to come to church. She did not answer. I called her again about 11:30 to remind her that we were going over to Trish's for dinner. When we got over there 1/2 hour later she was dressed and down at the dining hall having dinner. She had forgotten. We did however go over to Trish's and had a wonderful dinner.

Mom is here physically but that's it. Her mind and soul are always with Dad and is just waiting for her earthly shell to give up. She tries to maintain but her "heart" is not here any longer. I don't really blame her - Dad was everything to her.

As I sit hear listening to a beautiful Celtic CD, I now reflect that the strong willed, boisterous Mother that I remember was not really as she appeared. She was what she was as Dad "allowed" her to be in love. That was good thing.

I received an email the other day that touched my life and want to post it along with this message:

Dad's Glimpse of Heaven
His last words left us with something to look forward to
by Edna Hershberger

At 4:00 a.m. the nurse woke Dad to give him a breathing treatment. "Mr. Hershberger, do you know where you are?"
"Goshen Hospital," he answered politely and closed his eyes again.
She wrapped the blood pressure cuff around his arm. "Mr. Hershberger, who's the president of the United States?"
Dad looked at me with an expression that said, "Do I have to answer these silly questions in the middle of the night?"
She raised her voice, "Mr. Hershberger! Who's the president of the United States?"
"Do we have one?" he asked her.
"Good answer, Dad," I teased.
The nurse laughed loudly, gave him a mock punch on the shoulder, put an oxygen mask over his face, and turned on the noisy machine. "I guess you're awake and alert."
A week or two. That's how long the doctor said Dad might live, and we wanted to make the most of every minute.
I was glad to sit with my father-in-law during the night, while my husband, Dwight, slept on a sofa in the visitor's lounge down the hall.
When the breathing treatment was finished, the nurse repositioned Dad on his right side in the middle of the bed, carefully placing pillows against his back for support. He promptly pulled himself out of her neat nest and scooted to the side of the bed, his face almost against the bed rail.
"Okay, be that way!" she laughed.
I pulled my chair close to the bed and covered myself with a blanket. "I'm going to stay right here, Dad," I assured him, his hand in mine. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine," he answered automatically.
I frowned at him, and he chuckled weakly.
"Not too good," he admitted.
I was grateful Dr. Yoder had been straightforward with Dad. He had told him that he would continue to weaken and sleep more. Eventually, he'd fall asleep and not wake up.
I brushed the damp hair from his forehead. "I wonder how it feels to know that you'll soon see God."
"It feels good," Dad said without hesitating.
"It's such a mystery. Tell us what you feel and see and hear, to help us understand what you're experiencing."
"I'll try," he promised.
"Are you scared?"
"No," he said, "I feel at peace. I've been wishing to go to heaven all day."
I could hear the nurses talking at the desk. "Do you know if there's a bed available at Greencroft yet? Mr. Hershberger's supposed to be transferred to the nursing center there on Saturday."
This was Tuesday night. In four days, Dad would be transferred to the nursing center where he hoped he'd never have to go.
I thought about Dad falling asleep and not waking up. There were some things I wanted to tell him. "Hey, Dad, soon after Dwight and I started dating, he told me what you said about me. You told him he had picked a good one. You told him I was a peach. No one ever called me a peach before. And I've loved you ever since."
He squeezed my hand and closed his eyes.
"I'd better be quiet and let you sleep," I apologized.
"No," he said quickly. "I want you to keep talking. I just can't keep my eyes open."
"I've always wanted to thank you for helping me plant that sweet gum tree as a surprise for Dwight's birthday," I told him. "You were so kind. You could have warned me that sweet gum trees drop thousands of nasty, prickly balls in the fall. But I was so excited about the wonderful tree I had bought. You couldn't bear to burst my bubble, could you?"
"The leaves are pretty," he said.
I laughed. "That's another thing I love about you. You see the best in everything."
Dad jumped as though startled by something.
I sat up, held both of his hands in mine, and put my face close to his. "Is something wrong, Dad?"
His eyes were open, but he didn't seem to see me.
"I'm leaving," I thought I heard him say in a weak voice.
"Did you say, 'I'm leaving?'" I asked quickly.
"I'm leaving," he repeated more distinctly.
He surely couldn't mean dying. Not yet!
I tried to think of some appropriate last words to say in case this really was the end, but my mind went blank. I started to say, "I love you," but he interrupted me with one word. It sounded like, "cold."
"Oh! You're cold!" I tried to reach for the blanket, but he wouldn't let go of my hand.
He tensed, and quickly spelled it for me, with emphasis on the g sound, "G-o-l-d, gold. G-o-l-d, gold and silver. G-o-l …"
I was shivering. My heart was pounding. I leaned my head against the cold metal bed rail. "Lord, please carry him gently," I prayed.
"We love you, Dad," I kept repeating, as he took four long, shuddering breaths, and then was still. His hands became limp.
I should call the nurse, I thought. But I couldn't move.
I sat there in the darkness, holding Dad's badly bruised hands with intravenous fluids still running into them. My forehead seemed fused to the bed rail. Tears ran down my cheeks.
Six inches from my face, something supernatural had occurred, something far greater than my mind could absorb. I knew God was in the room, but I couldn't see him or feel him. I longed to be able to see what Dad had seen.
My mind was bursting with questions. Where was Dad right now? Could he see me crying? Had he heard the "good-bye" I said after he stopped breathing? Where is Heaven? Is it out beyond the earth's atmosphere like I always imagined? Or could it be very near? If Dad could see it while he was holding my hands, how far away could it be?
I gently laid Dad's hands on the bed, and walked out to the nurse's desk. I dried my cheeks and blew my nose. "Excuse me," I said, "my father-in-law is gone."
She jumped out of her chair. "What do you mean, 'gone'?"
"He just died," I said with a sob.
"That can't be!" she stammered. "He was just joking with me a few minutes ago."
She grabbed her stethoscope and rushed into his room, turning on lights and calling his name.
I walked down the hall to tell my husband that his father had just gone to heaven, and there really is gold there.

June 15, 2000 Email from Mom:

I feel rather down in more ways than one. DAD HAD AN APPT AT THE UROLOGIST TODAY AND THE NEWS IS NOT GOOD. He said dad has many spots in his bladder and will be going down next Wednesday to have a biopsy surgery to verify the cancer and then will have to have chemo. Dad said on the way home that he feels he will not be around next year at this time and it would not surprise me in the least and he said that by all means he wants to come up there as planned as he feels it will be his last time. He loves to be outdoors and taking care of his flowers and all the things he planted so there will many things to remember him by.

TRICIA, I love him so and do not know how I will get along without him as he is my only.

Love Mother
Oh Mom, what can I possibly say? It's only just these past two years, and even moreso this past year, that I can even begin to say that I am finally understanding how you must feel about Dad. I am a most fortunate woman to have Chris in my life. He is a quiet man, but his love runs deep. He puts up with me when I am cranky sometimes, but he gives as good as he gets, and sometimes we just have a night or two on our own, and I putz around, and next day we start again. But we respect each other, and he has his good and bad moments, like I have mine. He rubs my legs or feet, or massages my shoulders after sitting in front of a computer all day and they're SO sore, and it's like magic, his touch, with a healing effect. So I think I am beginning to understand what you've known for many years: having that special person in your life is the most precious thing in the world. Only when we're faced with hard news do we fully realize it. We know all along, but it magnifies it in our minds. Don't look on this time with dread, but cherish it. It's a very special time, strange as that may sound. We all know we face a transition down the road from now into eternity, but we don't really have any idea how it will be, nor what we will do, until we face it. I cannot tell you I know what you're feeling, I can only imagine. But I do know it would be hard, very hard. My love and prayers are with both you and Dad, and I am so glad you will be coming up here this summer...We greatly look forward to the visit. Take every day one day at a time. Don't allow fear of later steal the joy of now.

Love, Trish

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Some of our emails to and from Mom...



I called Mom about 2:30 pm during snow storm to just talk. She was just getting up. I asked her if Trish had called and canceled the hair appointment. She did not remember. She just said she was tired. It was a short call - I let her go to get up and get around.

I called Mom again to remind her to watch Red Skeleton on PBS at 6 pm. She was going to.

Mom called me about 9:15 and said she just needed to hear my voice and asked me to pray for her as she was having a bad day. Said Lori W. had stopped in and brought her some flowers, card and a doll that sang "You are my Sunshine" - she put it up to the phone. Actually, she had told me this several times during the week, as I believe Lori was there early in the week - but Mom has no sense of time or what day it is. She just said how much she loved Dad and misses him while she was crying. I reassured her and talked about general things. Since it was so cold we mutually agreed not to have her come out to church on Sunday.
She just wanted to stay in.


Mom called about 8:15 and asked where Trish was? I said I didn't know. Mom said that she was suppose to come and they were going to go out to Bennigan's for supper. She had been waiting a long time with her coat on and purse by the door. (I later called Trish and confirmed what I thought - there had been no plans for this...) Mom said she had not had supper and then thought something must have come up with Trish and she couldn't make it. She was hunger - I suggested that she better go check out the kitchen and see if anyone could get her a little something. She talked with Taylor about 5 minutes on the phone and then we said good night.

I felt VERY bad and went to sleep feeling very bad for her and remember what my mother used to be like. I want my mother back. And, I k-n-o-w it's going to get worse...


Monday, March 11, 2002

This will be an interesting journey, Betty and Sharon. Life is change, and we're a bit more sensitive and aware of that at the moment because of this past year, aren't we?

I look forward to writing together. This will be a positive thing. Thank you, Betty, for the idea...