On Labor Day I went to visit P. Such a familiar routine by then: park (away from the entrance side of the lot where once I’d been blocked in by a delivery van), clip on my name tag with the aggressively unflattering photo, stop by the front desk to sign in and greet the receptionists, walk down the hall with the tinkling music and tasteful corporate art to room one-forty-eight.

This time, something different. Her door was locked, and I just stood there for a while, uncertain. I’d already knocked and pitched my voice for a loud hello and her door was always unlocked, she can’t get up to let people in. You’d think I would have figured it out at that point, but no. An employee had to tell me that two days prior, sometime around 1 AM, P. had died.

Well. Hardly unexpected, and yet it felt like someone had picked up the world I knew and twisted it like a Rubik’s Cube. In one moment, I was going to walk into that room and pull up a wooden kitchen chair and spend an hour with my friend P., in the next I was never going to do that again.

The last time I saw her, she wasn’t doing well. She said she’d fallen the night before, and laid on the floor for some time before she could summon help. I couldn’t quite imagine it: without the strength to get out of bed, how could she have fallen? So many of the things she believed were growing fogged-over and indistinct. But she was clearly exhausted from something, her eyes kept closing. I held her hand — so fragile, like a sparrow — and told her to get some rest, I’d see her next time.

The obituary said she went peacefully. Maybe they always say that. I hope it’s true, though. I like knowing that it was one in the morning, it feels like a silent, still part of the night when the shape of things becomes malleable, when it’s possible for one breath to simply disconnect from the next.

She told me, more than once, how glad she was for her faith. She was so happy to know that she would be reunited with all her loved ones. She said she thought maybe God was keeping her alive for so long so she could pray for others, so she prayed for the people she saw outside on the bike path. I don’t know what else I can do, she said. All the things unsaid in that statement.

Her funeral was this past Sunday. At the end of the service there was a slideshow of images, and I got to see her as a younger woman, with dark hair and buttoned-up A-line dresses and those same twinkling eyes. In the very final photo she was in a car, scarf over her hair, a smile on her face and one hand raised to wave goodbye.

The Rubik’s Cube clicks back and forth: it was time for her to go, there is never quite enough time.


18 Responses to “Hospice files: P. goes home”

  1. Pat on September 21st, 2017 10:05 am

    She sounds like a lovely woman who is now at peace and reunited with her loved ones….and she was so fortunate to have had your visits to enjoy, share memories and brighten her last months. You must be a good person.

  2. Abby on September 21st, 2017 12:37 pm

    Linda, your writing is beautiful. Thank you for sharing P’s story and your words with us. Perhaps it is because this reminds me of my grandma’s passing, or perhaps it is just the images you stirred up with this post, but this brought tears to my eyes.

  3. Peggasus on September 21st, 2017 12:50 pm

    You could have written this about my elderly relative, Rosanne, who is in the same situation. She also fell at her assisted living place about two months ago, and has not been able to return since. Too many agonizing visits to the ER, then to a therapy facility, now basically on hospice as well at the county nursing home. Sometimes she knows me and other family members, but more often, not, and does not remember things from day to day. I just wish she’d go; I know she wants to. She’s 93. And another relative died Saturday, I wonder if she still remembers that. It’s so hard.

    You were a good friend to P, I hope someone will be to me as well when it’s my time.

  4. el-e-e on September 21st, 2017 1:28 pm

    One of the loveliest things you’ve ever written. And how lovely of you to have cared for her. Admirable and kind.

  5. Kate on September 21st, 2017 2:09 pm

    Im sorry for your loss.

    I started reading “mommy blogs” in my early 20s, and attached to a few. Some I stayed with because they were entertaining and funny, some admittedly because the train wreck became a fun voyeuristic distraction. Yours is the one I singularly stayed with because you are such a damn good writer. Whether you’re being funny, observant, or painfully and heartbreakingly self-effacing and aware, I find you to be incredibly talented. Just thought someone should tell you that today.

  6. Suzanne on September 22nd, 2017 6:46 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to P. Thank you for sharing her, even this brief glimpse of her, with us.

  7. Laura on September 22nd, 2017 12:49 pm

    Linda, I am sorry for your loss, and grateful for your beautiful way with words to share this story, P’s story, with the wider world. I’ve never met you or P, but I am glad to know you both.

  8. Em on September 22nd, 2017 12:50 pm

    How lovely.

  9. Alison on September 24th, 2017 9:24 am

    I’m sorry. I’m impressed you’re volunteering this way. It’s so appreciated I’m sure, and not easy.

    This is beautifully written. You have such a talent with words.

  10. Jen on September 24th, 2017 5:45 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss. It sounds like she touched your heart as much as you no doubt touched hers.

  11. Liv on September 25th, 2017 8:50 am

    Sometimes I wish I had faith too so I could feel that at peace with living and dying. How can us non-believers learn that kind of acceptance?

  12. Jenny on September 25th, 2017 8:31 pm

    Damn. You are such a good writer.

  13. Thursday on October 3rd, 2017 11:24 am

    I’m with Kate. Your story in many ways is very different to mine but whilst many other blogs fell by the wayside over the last decade, yours has not because you are a very, very fine writer, and this, this of all, demonstrates that.

  14. Jenny on October 6th, 2017 9:59 am

    I have a friend dying in hospice right now, and the gentleness and peace there is so important to her and her friends. Thanks for volunteering there. And I’m sorry about your friend. Death, even long-awaited death, is never right.

  15. Valarie on October 25th, 2017 8:06 pm

    I am a nurse at a home care company and I greatly admire and appreciate how well you write about such sensitive topics.
    I also hope that you are doing ok… your story really touches my heart.
    Please post a little something when you can so we all know that you’re doing ok. But if you are not ok – please know you have many folks following your story and caring about you. Take care Linda. Valarie

  16. Scott Hagg on October 26th, 2017 6:21 am

    I’m with Valarie. Not “with her” with her, and I’m not a nurse. But I was just about to write something very similar…

  17. Ivo on November 9th, 2017 9:07 am

    Absolutely brilliant writing…

  18. TravelingBlush on November 25th, 2017 9:22 am

    Thank you for sharing this story in such a beautiful way. This has made me think about volunteering my time again. I’ve done so in the past but in a very impersonal mode. Maybe I will need to look into opportunities that connects more with individuals.

    Anyway, keep writing!

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