Archive for the ‘Moving Forward But Not Forgetting’ Category
Picture taken July, 1995
On Sunday, February 21, 2010, we brought Frank home to begin hospice. We knew he didn’t have much time to live and so we were going to do whatever we could to make the remainder of his life as comfortable as possible. The living room was set up in such a way that he had his picture window to enjoy the sunshine, the stereo so he could listen to music, a clock added to the wall so he knew the time, the phone by him…all the comforts he would need.
An amazing group of people were always around during the last five or six weeks before Frank died – Sean, Mike, Shona, Ruth, Lock, Lisa, Bob, Jim and Dale. Each of these individuals took huge amounts of time out of their lives to be there for Frank whenever he asked them to be. Or in some cases, demanded it. (Right, Sean? Can you say “MOA, now!”) From the time he was brought to the hospital on January 26th via ambulance to the day he died, February 28, at least two of those people in that group were with him all the time. Sean and Mike, for sure you were his main soldiers and had his back and he told you that – that was high praise as you well know; he certainly wasn’t one to give compliments lightly.
Tuesday, February 23, a massage therapist from hospice came over to be with Frank. I went into the kitchen to pay some bills and give them some privacy. As the therapist began the session Frank made a noise, sort of a grunt or ‘oof’ like sound. The therapist asked him if he was okay and he said yes. She asked if he would like to talk about it as sometimes people experience things at this point. He just said “Everything is going to be okay.”
I heard him say that and I knew exactly what he meant by it. We’d had long, long discussions on how I was going to survive financially, how I was going to take care of the house on my own, and how I was going to be emotionally when he was gone. I nearly cried when I heard him say that but I also knew that meant he had just made the first step in the direction he was headed, his new path, and his new ‘life’ so to speak.
As the week progressed and his health continued to decline I still held out hope that Ruth (who adored Frank as he adored her) would be able to be there with us before Frank passed. She was in NY at the time on business and I was reassured time and again by the nurse that Frank would hang on longer than he eventually did, so we didn’t push to have her come home. But obviously, the nurse couldn’t have known that Frank would slip away before Ruth could be here to say her own good bye. I personally think that although Frank loved Ruth, he didn’t want her to see him at the end. That wasn’t the image he wanted to leave her with.
Numerous friends and relatives visited throughout the week and that was so appreciated by Frank and me. But eventually I had to tell everyone that visits were going to be severely limited because he was becoming agitated easily, even with Sean or Mike and just me here. I hated to do that but his comfort was an absolute priority. Even with my increasing his morphine dosages he still was fidgeting, I couldn’t stand to watch that with people here.
On the 27th we had a number of people over and if I remember correctly I cut that day short with visitors because he was more out of it than not. I needed to be with him to keep him calm and the less noise at that point the better he rested.
On Sunday, February 28, 2010, I put out a blog post around 10:00 am letting people know they now had to call before coming to see Frank. They could no longer just drop by. Sean and Mike were the exceptions and I also knew they would be there later in the day.
From the time I put out that post until just moments before he died, I knew something was happening. I honestly didn’t know what it was but I knew something had changed. The energy, for lack of a better term, was different in the house. I had to be in the same room with him, I needed to be, I physically couldn’t bring myself to leave his side. Even though he wasn’t responsive at the time I talked to him about the fact I loved all the trips we took together and how much fun they were, and how he was the love of my life, how it was a good thing we never went to bed angry at each other because it was so much more fun being happy, how I knew I was going to be okay and that he didn’t need to worry about me.
I told him I loved him and I kissed him, and hugged him the best I could without hurting him.
Later I was sitting next to the bed, just being quiet, touching his arm lightly. I knew then it was close. I felt it in my gut. He moved a bit and then took two calm breaths with a pause in between, just in and out, very slowly. And he was gone. After that and before I called anyone, I spent time with him, just me. No one else. It was my turn, my time. I wanted more time than nearly 15 years but you have to appreciate what you get, right? I held his hands, I patted the arm that was nearest to me. I kissed him, I hugged him and tidied the blankets around him. Then I started the calls beginning with Mike.
To all of those great people who were there for Frank and also for me back then – because I was watching the most important person in my life die before my very eyes, I thank you once again. I’ve said that before and I’ll repeat it time and again. You have supported and given me much comfort (including laughter!), then and still to this day. I truly feel so blessed because not many people are this fortunate to have the network of support I had during Frank’s illness and since his passing.
I know this phrase sounds so cliché but since Frank died I began a new chapter in my life and while at times there have been great challenges, there has also been joy and laughter, new experiences and new friends made. My family, Frank’s family, our mutual friends and my own friends – they have continued to be a part of my life and I am eternally grateful for that.
There is a place in my heart that is reserved solely for my love and memories of Frank, and it will remain there forever. No one can replace him and no one can be Frank Asher again. He was an experience of a lifetime, not perfect by any means but he was the most loyal individual I ever knew and if you were the same to him, you were blessed to be a part of that experience.
I love you, Frank. May you rest in peace.
- Waves crashing on ginormous rocks is soothing.
- Mother Nature is truly all powerful.
- Karma is the real deal, baby.
- Fog on a beach is magical and captivating.
- Seagulls can be cool. So long as they stay out of rock throwing distance. For me that means about 3 feet.
- Knitting doesn’t happen when you have a view of Lake Superior outside your door that is continually changing. Neither does reading.
- Unpaved roads while riding one’s bike can be j-j-j-jaring…but the view of the lake next to you is worth the teeth rattling.
- Lakers are not as close to the shore as you think. Incredibly impressive in size.
- Storm clouds passing overhead are meant to be looked at, and their formations will surprise you with meaning. Not to mention move you – not physically – but mentally and emotionally.
- The smell of pine trees is intoxicating.
- Winding roads are hillier than you think. My legs would tell you that. If they could talk. Which they can’t. But if they could, they would. Uffda.
- Friends are a genuinely, necessary part of life. Find them. Learn from them. Appreciate them.
- Slabs of rock the size of cars are fabulous places to relax on.
- Campfires, friends, dogs, Austrian’s – “yup”, s’mores, scotch, champagne, rock finding, conversation, dark chocolate covered caramels with sea salt, Highlander Grogg, cinnamon almonds, forgiveness, pepperjack cheese omelettes made with fresh eggs, cheese curds, fog, sunrises, letting go, singing out of tune, sunsets, fresh air, thunderstorms, beaches. It’s all good, my friends.
- Agates rock.
Sunday, April 25th, will be 8 weeks since Frank passed away. Sometimes it feels like it’s been longer than that and other times, much shorter. Maybe it’s because I’ve kept busy with school, a surgery (I’m fine), an internship and hanging with friends and family since then.
Last Saturday I had a party with a special group of people to honor Frank. We had picnic food, a campfire, a quiz with prizes and just all around grand fun. I bought some shot glasses with an up north scene on them and had Frank’s name and the date he passed away imprinted on them. So we all toasted him at the campfire with them – I had scotch because it seemed the right thing to do as that was what two of Frank’s best friends and I had the day he passed away, in the living room while saying good-bye.
I never did share here much of that day and some parts of it will always remain private. It’s interesting because I had put out a post on the blog at 10:06 am that day, Feb 28th, explaining that I was going to be restricting visitors because he seemed so agitated, and then he passed away not much later the same day.
From the time I put out that post until just moments before he died, I knew something was happening. I honestly didn’t know what it was but I knew something had changed. The energy, for lack of a better term, was different in the house. I had to be in the same room with him, I needed to be, I physically couldn’t bring myself to leave his side. Even though he wasn’t responsive at the time I talked to him about the fact I loved all the trips we took together and how much fun they were, and how he was the love of my life, how it was a good thing we never went to bed angry at each other because it was so much more fun being happy, how I knew I was going to be okay and that he didn’t need to worry about me. Sweet stuff. Silly stuff. Our stuff. I told him I loved him and I kissed him, and hugged him the best I could without hurting him.
Later I was sitting next to the bed, just being quiet, touching his arm lightly. I knew then it was close. I felt it in my gut. He moved a bit and then took two calm breaths with a pause in between, just in and out, very slowly. And he was gone. After that and before I called anyone, I spent time with him, just me. No one else. It was my turn, my time. I wanted more time than nearly 15 years but you have to appreciate what you get, right? I held his hands, I patted the arm that was nearest to me. I kissed him, I hugged him and tidied the blankets around him. Then I started the calls.
Later that day two of his friends were here with me and we stood around the bed and toasted him with shots of scotch, because that’s what Frank would have wanted. Yes, it was sad. Yes, it sucked in the worst way imaginable to even do that because it signified the end of his life here as we know it, but we had to honor what we thought would be his wishes. Frank was a big presence, a free spirit who spoke his mind and loved those who were true, and he will be remembered that way always. If anyone remembers him as anything else, you didn’t know the same person. I know he is somewhere enjoying the next part of his journey, pain-free, strong and happy. I wish he were here doing that but I have come to accept that isn’t possible so I need to more forward with my life. To my next journey.
I wasn’t going to share even this much on the blog but I just spent the past week doing my 40 hour internship at the same clinic Frank received his cancer treatments at. I wasn’t sure if it was a smart idea going there for the internship but it turns out it was definitely the right thing to do. There wasn’t one single person I met or worked with who didn’t truly care about the patients – the level of compassion and caring is simply admirable. I applaud the entire staff sincerely for what they do – from the front desk to the switchboard, the schedulers, financial counseling, the nurses, the doctors…everyone really, truly has empathy for those coming to the clinic.
They welcomed me with open arms and those who knew Frank, I offered a memorial bookmark to them that I had made for his service. He is now all over that clinic with those bookmarks, he’s grinning from ear to ear in the picture on it – and likely grinning from wherever he is now because even when he was at his crabbiest, someone always got him to smile when he was there. Believe me, I heard the stories and they were lovely. For that, I thank the staff from the bottom of my heart for not only helping make his day, but sharing those stories with me last week. To the staff – I will be visiting sometime this summer and I’ll bring the salsa I promised all of you. 🙂
I know now doing my internship there was the right thing to do because it confirmed for me that I’m moving into the right field for the next part of my life’s journey. I may not be able to work at that clinic but I know what aspect of the Medical Office Assistant role I want to do now, actually – it’s probably really not a true aspect of it but it’s definitely related. And it’s important.
I don’t know when it happened but the majority of the anger I had about losing Frank has dissipated, it’s been replaced with a quiet resolution to move forward and begin my new life, and with the knowledge that it’s okay to do so. But I will do it without forgetting Frank – he is permanently in my heart.