She loved to play cards. One of the most difficult parts of her illness in the end was that she couldn’t play bridge anymore. That was borderline devastating. How would they ever find a replacement for her at bridge club?
She had sclerosis of the liver, diabetes, a disease similar to leukemia and heart failure. The combination kept her homebound for the last few months of her life. This was the worst form of torment for her. Normally, she had an activity on each day of the week – Bridge club, pinochle, bunko, newcomers club. If you called to invite her to attend something, you had to squeeze it into her busy schedule. She kept herself busy and had many friends right up until she could no longer drive or walk very far or travel.
She loved being the center and if she wasn’t, she would find a way to place herself there. She was kind and loving but she was also bold and brash when she wanted to be. She would tell it like she saw it — whether you liked it or not. Getting older was very difficult for her – she fought it every step of the way. Shortly before she died, after returning home from the hospital for the umpteenth time, she no longer wanted to hear about hospice or funerals or churches. In exasperation she said, “I just want to get back to playing bridge, I’m not dead yet!”
The week before she died, we had a surprise party for her. All of her children were there and most of her grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. She had just gotten out of the hospital for the last time. It was time for hospice. Initially, when we rolled her into that room filled with people, she was a little confused as to what was going on – but then she realized that this was her family, all of her family, and she broke down in tears. We ate dinner, sat around and visited and then took pictures of everyone, together. I’m sure that was her favorite part, the photos. Of course, she didn’t have a chance to refresh her lipstick…spent a few minutes looking for anyone with a tube of red lipstick then we finally gave up and just took the photos.
She didn’t talk much that day, which was very unusual. I suspect she was exhausted and in need of a warm bed, but she smiled and smiled. So happy to be with her family, happy that they did this for her. Happy to have the chance to see them for the last time. We all knew this. It was as hard for us to believe as it was for her. I still can’t imagine a world without her.
The funeral mass is Thursday, the burial on Friday. It will be a strange thing – as funerals often are – realizing that she really is gone. I only knew her for 32 years, she was my mother-in-law, but I will miss her.