|Ahnung holding vigil next to M's bed|
|We read this every time we ride the elevator|
Every week Ahnung and I look forward to visiting 'M'. We've shared stories and experiences while Ahnung lays quietly by her bedside. Throughout our visit Ahnung stands up to get pets and strokes on her head. A couple weeks ago, 'M' had an infection. She told me the room was spinning. But no matter what she always sees the positive and is grateful and appreciative. I tell her I want to be like her when I get older. She tells me, "it's all about attitude," she smiles. "I've had a good life and I have a lot of people who love me."
This past Thursday I walked into her room. She was noticeably weaker. 'M' was now attached to an oxygen machine. We walk in and an Allina staff is by her bedside. The staff member looks up and sees us walk in, "She's been waiting for you." Our friend 'M' smiles, 'There's my Star ... my Star Good Girl." The Allina staff member leaves so we can visit and spend time together. She asks me if I've rescued any more dogs so I tell her all about our recent spay/neuter clinic up at Leech Lake Reservation and how we brought down 42 animals who were surrendered. She tells me about how she used to love playing basketball and especially hockey; we talk about her love of reading and writing. She then shares how she's been feeling weaker, more tired and how the oxygen helps her sleep at night. She tells me how she hasn't been hungry but the staff wants her to eat. I ask her if there's anything she loves to eat. She mentions blueberry yogurt, but then we soon get to her real love .. White Castle hamburgers!!! There's a big smile on her face when she talks about White Castle hamburgers. I tell her the next time Star and I come and visit we are coming with White Castle hamburgers ... "Just one", she tells me, "I can't eat more than one." I tell her okay. I will bring her one, a few for her roommate and a a couple for Ahnung. I tell her we'll have a burger party! I ask her if she wants fries with her White Castle burger -- she says 'No, but i'd like a Coke!"
As we end our visit Ahnung walks up to the side of her bed to get pets and strokes on her head. M is tired and needs to rest. She tells me how she never wants to miss our visits. I assure her she won't and if she does, we will come back. There's a heaviness in my heart when I leave M's room. I know the time is approaching when we will have to say our goodbyes .... over and over I hear her say to me, "I've had a good life. It's all about attitude." M lives in the moment. She appreciates those around her and all she has today. Ahnung and I are supposed to be giving our hospice friends a gift ... instead what has happened is that we have been given an even greater gift in return. I look forward to our visits, to our conversations, to hearing her stories, to sharing my stories and to watching her light up by simply having Ahnung in her room.
As I have had to deal with my own health issues and Ahnung's cancer, and so much uncertainty in our own lives, I have been blessed with the gift of walking with a beautiful, wise spirit who approaches the end with so much dignity and grace. Death isn't something to fear. It will hurt and there will be a huge void in my heart when 'M' leaves but she is forever etched in my heart, and I have assured her that Star and I will be with her every step of the way. For now, we will continue to enjoy and cherish every moment we have and I look forward to our next visit with White Castle burgers and Coke in hand! :)
"Every blade in the field,
Every leaf in the forest,
Lays down its life in its season,
As beautifully as it was taken up."
~ Henry David Thoreau