Sunday, June 26, 2016

Orphaned at 54

I remember a rare occasion when my father and I went out to eat, just us. I cannot remember where my mom, younger sister and brothers were. I was around 20 years old at the time.

Dad had me drive to a nearby town to eat at the restaurant called Grindstone Charley's. They had good pork tenderloin sandwiches and steaks.

We sat down to dinner.

"Dad, was it scary after Grandma and Granddad died, even though you were an adult?"

"Yes, a little."

When my father died in 2012, I did not feel any fear. I felt sadness but was glad that his suffering from pancreatic cancer was over. I still had my mother then too.

Months before my father died my mother had a bad reaction to a medication. This caused her to sustain several mini strokes and a condition called vasculitis. It was nothing short of a miracle that she survived. At the time, we did not know that she was at the beginning of her trials with vascular dementia.

Dad passed away and Mom's short-term memory was failing. At times she did not remember Dad dying. Later when her memory worsened she did not remember that she had been married or had eight children. Then she began not to remember her children at times.

Not only had the vascular dementia effected her memory, her body was becoming more frail too. The mother my sisters, brothers and I had known was beginning to retreat behind a curtain. Every once in a while she would peak around that curtain and we would see her again.

 It was a long, and at times, rough road for Mom, the family and Dorothy (Mom's live-in Visiting Angel) during the last four years of my mom's life.

As with my father's passing, I was getting emails, texts and phone calls about Mom's health from my sisters and brothers. Mom was under hospice care at home and the nurse had said Mom had "weeks to days" left. When I heard that she had days left, I made the trip back to Indiana. I arrived on the evening of June 10th (my son's 23rd birthday).

I stayed at my younger sister's house, as Mom's house was already full of family members. I went to Mom's house the next morning.

I walked into her bedroom. I kissed her on the forehead and said, "Hello Mom, it's me, I'm here now."

Her eyes were not open. I would not see her pretty, dark-brown eyes again on this side of Heaven.

I sat down in the chair beside the adjustable hospital bed and held my mother's hand.

"Mom remember we would say I love you and squeeze hands three times as we said the words?"

Holding my mom's hand I said I love you and squeezed her hand three times.

I felt Mom's hand give me the faintest squeeze.

For two days I would make the trip from my sister's house back to Mom's. Taking turns sitting in her bedroom with her and other family members.

I was told that Mom had had a bout of terminal restlessness before I arrived and during this bout she had tried to get out of bed. She said she could see my father and wanted to go to him. She also said she saw her parents, grandparents and her younger brother Anthony or "Tony Boy" who had died when he as twelve. Tony was born with spina bifida and was hydro-cephalic. He was paralyzed from the waist down. Mom said he was as smart as a whip. When Mom saw Tony during her terminal restlessness he was running towards her on perfect legs and beckoning her to come with him.

My mom's last breath was at 5:18 a.m. on June 13, 2016. That day was the Feast Day of Saint Anthony.

Now that I no longer had a parent living, I remembered the dinner with my dad all those years ago. I did not feel fear at being orphaned. I felt sadness at never seeing my mother or hearing my mother's voice again, but I rejoiced in knowing her pain and suffering were over. She was in a far better place now.

It was now time to think about the funeral. The Colonel and I had worked on the details of both my parent's funerals before my father died. There were only a few details left to work.

Mom would have a Latin Mass at Holy Rosary Church like my dad did. She would have the same type of casket too. A casket made by monks in southern Indiana.

Mom's viewing was held on the evening of  Wednesday, June 15th. It was held in the same room at Flanner and Buchanan Mortuary that my dad's was held. The family had a private viewing for an hour before others came to give their respects.

Many friends and other family members arrived throughout the evening. My dear friend came too. It was so good to see her again.

Mom's Visiting Angel/Companion was at the viewing (as well as the funeral). We thanked her profusely for all she had done for Mom. She had become like a family member to us.

The Colonel was not at the viewing. He was at the airport picking up our daughter and son who both flew in from different parts of Florida. Bad weather and delays had played havoc with their arrivals (and departures) so we did not see them until late that evening at my sister's house.

Mom's funeral was the next morning. After a little sleep, we all woke up, ate breakfast and began to get dressed. We followed my sister and her husband to the church. We arrived just before the hearse.

Our son was one of the pall bearers. All pall bearers were the grandsons or great grandsons of my mother.

As my mother's casket made its way inside the church, the second-largest free-swinging bell in the State of Indiana named "San Salvador" began to toll. The 7,000 pound bell's ring could be felt within the walls and under foot.

The bell tolled as the pall was placed on the casket and the priest blessed the casket.

My sisters, brothers, their spouses, The Colonel and I followed behind the casket, down the aisle. Grandchildren and great grandchildren followed next.

We took our seats and the Latin Mass began. Like my father's funeral, there was much singing of beautiful music sung in Latin. Again, I felt like I was present at a royal medieval funeral but this time one for a queen.

When the priest blessed my mother's casket with holy water and incense, the smell of the incense made me think of medieval times again.

The priest who said the mass said very lovely things about my mother. Next, Father Cochran, who had been to several of my parent's themed lawn parties in the past, stood up to speak about my mother. He said she was now attending her best lawn party and its theme was Paradise.

The funeral was over, the bell tolled once again as we exited the church. The pall bearers carried the casket back to the hearse.

Everyone headed to their vehicles, placed the funeral sign on their rear view mirrors, turned on headlights, flashers and lined up to follow the police-escorted hearse to the graveside ceremony.

It was a beautiful day for my mother's funeral. The police-escort had gotten us to the cemetery in good time and without incident. The young pall bears were once again ready to carry the casket to the grave site.

My youngest brother played the bagpipes for Mom's grave side ceremony just as he did for our father's nearly four years ago.

Father Cochran gave the grave side service. When he asked that we all pray the Hail Mary, it brought many of us to tears.

When Father Cochran was finished we all thanked him for his kind words and filed past Mom's casket and place flowers on it.

The beautiful grave side ceremony was over and everyone was beginning to get hungry. My younger sister was holding the wake at her house. She had ordered plenty of food for everyone. The caterer was setting up all of the delicious Italian food as we came through the door.

The house was full of family, friends and food.

Father Cochran came to the wake. He enjoyed the food as well as sitting and talking to everyone.

When the wake wound down and as people began to leave, everyone was pressed encouraged to take some food with them. We still had so much food left. I do not think anyone minded taking the food home, for I do not think anyone wanted to cook that evening.

During Mom's viewing, funeral and wake her children were surrounded by family and friends. When one does become an orphan that is truly the best way it is to be accomplished.