Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Walk in the Rain

Arrangements were made for the cremation. This morning it took place. Christopher and I met Tom at Riverside's crematorium at 8:30am.

We met the two men who do the cremations. We watched as the box with Mom's remains was taken and placed in the furnace. I thanked the men, and Tom, and we walked away.

It was gently raining, and as we approached the car to leave, I asked Chris if he'd mind taking a walk through the cemetery. We got our umbrellas, and proceeded.

I don't often have a chance to walk through a cemetery when it's raining. No wind, so amazingly quiet, peaceful, and empty...except, of course, for the silent city around us.

The huge, old trees throughout the cemetery made me think of home, the home my mother lived in most of her life. It, too, had great old trees surrounding it. There's something amazing about trees, and seeing such trees gave me comfort as I glanced back at the crematorium and saw the waves of heat rising out of the chimney on top.

As we walked past the gravestones, we noticed white-tailed deer further on, one standing, and one beyond that was laying down under a tree. Chris took photos as I watched them watch us.

We turned a corner, then another, heading back to the car, when we noticed a small flock of birds in the distance coming out from behind the mausoleum. Wild turkeys, a small band of males. We headed up the small hill and around the building, and caught them as they disappeared behind, shaking their feathers, looking up, and stepping ahead under the falling rain.

It was a magical morning walk, a very special walk I will never forget...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Harriet's Obituary

Harriet Ellen Fitzpatrick Short
March 30, 1922 - June 11, 2007

Harriet Short passed away on Monday, June 11, 2007 at Eventide Nursing Home, Moorhead, Minnesota. She was 85 years old.

Harriet Ellen Fitzpatrick Short was born on March 30, 1922 in St. Vincent, Minnesota. She graduated from Pembina High School in 1940, then worked for Bell Telephone in Bemidji, MN. She was at her switchboard on December 7, 1941 when it lit up with calls; she soon found out it was due to the news of the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor.

She married Gordon Short in February 1943 at the end of his basic training, and too soon said goodbye as he went overseas for two and a half years. After the war, they made a life in St. Vincent, raised three daughters, and retired to New Mexico in 1987, moving there permanently in 1998.

Although Harriet never had the chance at higher education, she was well-read all her life, and an inveterate letter writer to those she cared for. Throughout her life, her love of the written word and for writing itself was passed on to her children and grandchildren. She shared her passion for homemaking not only with her daughters through her amazing skills as a cook and seamstress, but also professionally as a Homemaker for Kittson County Social Services in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In that capacity, she traveled the county helping individuals learn personal finance, housekeeping, and other much-needed skills in many lower-income, rural areas.

Harriet learned from her parents that faith was important, but that asking questions was not wrong. Her intelligence, curiosity, and energy inspired her daughters to work towards their goals. Her pragmatism and Irish dark humor also tempered their own characters as they faced life's challenges. She always said, as her mother before her, that life could be hard; but on the other hand, there was much to be thankful for.

Harriet was preceded in death by her husband Gordon Short, her parents Albert and Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, and three siblings. She is survived by her three daughters, Sharon Hannaford (Darien, Illinois), Betty Thorsvig (Glyndon, Minnesota), and Trish Lewis (Fargo, North Dakota), seven grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren. There will be no public services; family have decided to hold a private Irish wake. Memories and condolences are warmly welcomed, and may be sent either via email or mailed to: Trish Lewis, 107 1/2 Roberts St N Apt 2, Fargo ND 58102.

A Grandson Reflects

Randy is my sister Betty's boy. My first nephew. The first grandchild of my parents.

He has this to say about Mom's passing...
She loved playing cards, any card game you mentioned she played it but one game she could never beat grandpa at was [Liverpool] rummy, NEVER and that pissed her off so much it was knee slapping funny, she would accuse my grandpa of cheating all the time (which he never did except count cards…LOL he told me)...
Well blow me over with a feather, I never knew that! I must admit, that tickles me to read that. He never told her - I admire a man who can keep a secret! And for all those years...! *Laugh* Man, that sure sounds like my Dad...what a character.

I commented on Randy's reflections, saying, "You hit the nails on their heads with all your points, Randy. You WERE paying attention all those years...*laugh*...yep, Grandma could sure get on your nerves sometimes, but man, she was a great person. She loved deep and hard, and as we all do, had her faults. I see now her life in a much better context than when I was growing up, but even then, I knew for whatever reason, despite her ticking me off, I loved her fiercely. There was something amazing about her..."

We're cremating her. We're holding an old-fashioned Irish wake for her. And we're spreading her ashes on Dad's grave and the old homestead. It's the way it should be.

Mom is Gone...

Mom passed away tonight at 7:00pm. Daniel was coming to visit her when it happened. He arrived just as the nursing staff had discovered she was gone, and were removing the butterfly from her chest. I'm glad someone from the family was there.

Such a long day, so many emotions.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Visiting Mom Today

Mom in 2006 - Laughing at stories we are sharing...
Trishymouse says:
Are you there?
I visited Mom this afternoon.
Betty says:
yes i am
Trishymouse says:
She was awake when I got there.
Betty says:
ohhhh, go ahead
Trishymouse says:
She didn't say much at first, I think she was awake but not focused. I talked to her, then put my hand in hers and man did she take ahold of it.
Betty says:
Trishymouse says:
I told her it was beautiful outside but the river was high, and it was June. June?, she said, amazed to hear the river was up that late, and I said yes, a lot of rain. She told me I looked tired, and I laughed, because she always used to tell me that.
Betty says:
still has a good mind lol
Trishymouse says:
I told her I love you, Mom, and she said I love you, too.
Betty says:
I am so glad you have a good talk with her
Trishymouse says:
Her mouth was very dry and I gave her water and she took a lot through the straw. I told her you wanted to come but your darn knees were killing you but you'd come when you could.
Trishymouse says:
It could tell it was hard for her to concentrate and talk...but she definitely was trying...maybe part of it was the pain meds.
Betty says:
write every word down, every word
Trishymouse says:
I will.
Betty says:
love you trish and I am glad you went
Trishymouse says:
Me, too...

Monday, June 04, 2007



Our family got a call last weekend (Memorial Day...) They said Mom had a very wet chest and periods of apnea lasting 15-20 seconds in length. We were told we should come.

We raced to get to Mom before it was too late. Once there, we were told she had been given meds to alleviate the fluid in her lungs, was in a semi-sitting position in bed, and was breathing more normally. Her eyes were rolling back in her head a lot. We were there three hours, waiting for the Hospice nurse on call. Once she arrived, she examined Mom and took her vitals. She said her lungs sounded good and so did her heart. I was only able to get one response from Mom when I talked loudly to her and said "Hi!" and she said "Hi" back. It was more of an automatic response, but I do think she was trying.

This past week, we've been in touch with her regular nurse, who had this to say:
I am your mom’s primary nurse and have just gotten back from vacation. I saw her today to assess her considering all the changes that have gone on while I was away. I was very pleasantly surprised to find her sitting up in her wheelchair waiting for supper. She answered all of my questions in full sentences and even tried to smile. Her lungs sounded clear but she would cough at times. She hasn’t eaten much today but took some small amounts of fluids. She denied pain. I ordered her pain meds orally again and I will call there in the am to see how she did. They have the injectable, too, to use if she doesn’t take the oral. We will see how she does and then look at her other meds. I will not restart the Flexeril as that may have contributed to the changes over the weekend.
I responded:
I really appreciate you communicating with us this way. All three of us daughters are busy working women but want to keep close in touch with what is happening to our mother and email is an amazing tool we all use a lot to keep in touch.

I'm thrilled to hear that Mom is doing better. What did you think Flexeril was doing exactly?

Our only frustration has been that we hear about these periods of wakefulness and communication, but since they are intermittent and erratic, we never seem to find her awake, and we'd dearly LOVE to talk with her again. It's definitely been weeks, but it feels (and may be) months since we had much conversation with her. If there is any way that staff at Eventide and/or Hospice could make a note of what they
observe and let us know your best guess as to when to visit and find her awake, we'd be eternally grateful.
Susan, the Hospice nurse, responded again:
We will restart the rest of your mom's oral meds today. She did well with the pain meds we restarted yesterday. I talked with Dr. Martindale's nurse and they agree with the plan to restart meds except for the Flexeril. It can cause sedation especially in combination with the pain meds and Seroquel that your mom is on. She might do ok with a lower dose, but for now, we'll not use it. As for when to visit her, I saw her about 5:00 pm just before her eve meal. That seems to be a good
time for her. I know it must be frustrating for you to not find her awake. Yesterday was by far the most talkative I've ever seen her. I have also contacted Dr. Xie, the psychiatrist to see if she wants to reduce/change any of her psych meds. The NH or I will let you know if there are any changes...I did contact Dr. Xie and she ordered a significant reduction in your mom's Seroquel and Effexor. Your mom may not need as many pscyh meds now that her pain is in better control since pain may have been contributing to her behaviors. We shall see how she does. We can always go back up on
her psych meds if needed. It's just so nice to see her so alert. Pam, another Hospice nurse, will be checking on your mom for me today. We'll update you with changes.
Good to know. I must get up there as soon as possible late in the afternoon and visit Mom! I pray she is awake...