We are at the bedside.
It was the celestial weather report, wasn’t it, Mom? Here comes the snow, and off you go.
We make the calls, send the texts, post the posts.
When we return, they’ve bathed and dressed her in her favorite top, the one with the sparkle neckline. She wears her glasses, the ones she wore 24/7 so she didn’t miss a thing. And Doc rests on her heart. He’s the plush pillow pet I bought thinking he might help support her in the wheelchair. He was her constant companion–Doc H (for Hippo–or Hippocrates of “first do no harm” fame.) She renamed him recently to “Doc Do-Nothing.” He was in charge of her call button.
I support her feet during the final transfer. Nurse Denise, the one I’ve dubbed an honorary deep see diver because she says I inspired her to wear pearls to work, strokes her right foot, and we look at each other. I pull them from the drawer, the long pink and white knit socks, the ones they called Cat-in-the-Hat socks, the ones she wore outside, and we slip them on.
They drape the blue and white patchwork quilt over her, and she embarks on her final journey.
We gaze at the empty bed, at the squirrels and the birds busy outside, and we busy ourselves.
We pile pillows and extra sheets and blankets on the floor between the wall and the desk.
They bring boxes, and we fill them with half-empty jar of peanut butter, cake mixes, a box of cereal, leftover turkey, hot fudge sundae topping, cream cheese, sour cream, homemade strawberry jam, and more.
We empty drawers, pack fragiles in the folds of a bathrobe, pad with slippers, and slip in the bottle of Chanel #5.
I cram too much into my suitcase, and the zipper sticks.
I check the CD player and retrieve Martha and John’s Celtic music.
I fold the rainbow blanket that my niece made and the handprinted throw that my daughter and grandgirls made.
I wrestle the harp into the bag.
It takes four cars to take away what two brought during the last month plus.
This place, it’s become home.
The staff has become family.
I’m going to miss it.
We head down to room 7 and sit with Nick for awhile.
We hug Nurse Denise and CENAs Deb and Rhonda.
We walk past the unfinished puzzle and out the door.
I put the Journey in reverse, stop and put it in park.
I reach for my camera and climb out to snap a picture of the bench. It’s where we sat next to her to watch birds and wonder at “sun spots.” My dad gathered stones on it. We spilled coffee on it. She told me I’d get hemorrhoids if I sat on it while it was cold. And my sister curled up on it with her head on my Mom’s shoulder on our last outing.
I get back into the Journey, head down the hill between the dune (?) grass that lines the drive, turn left at the stoplight, and drive west, away from the lake.
The journey is over.
And the journey begins.
Bernice M. Heska
January 1,1929 – November 27, 2011
The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God.
~Hebrews 4:9-10 (Message)