Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jayne's Slippers

I returned a pair of slippers yesterday. I had bought them online as a Christmas present for my sister in law. Jayne died Monday.

It was, I guess, as good a death as possible. Last Friday, when she went into intensive care, the word went out to her family and friends. And they came. All those who could possibly be there were there. After the initial shock of seeing her on a respirator, they connected, sharing their love, their memories. There was probably as much laughter as there were tears. The stories were wonderful. So were the tears and the laughter.

The hardest part for Jayne was, I think, the fact that she could not talk (because of the breathing tube). Eventually, someone worked up a system. They printed out the alphabet and watched for Jayne’s signals about which letters to choose. Slowly, she was able to share two sentences: "I cry because I am so blessed" and (when someone asked her if she was angry about anything) "I am angry because of the chocolate cake." (Her very good friend Louise had made her famous chocolate sheet cake for Jayne's family ... but Jayne could not eat it.)

For three days they came – her husband, her sons, her sister, her friends, old neighbors who had stayed in touch, teachers who had worked with her, members of the League of Women Voters, and of her church. When her room got crowded, I’d move out. When others left, I came back.

On the fourth day, Monday, she was able to make her instructions clear: remove the tube with her husband and sons in the room and me and friends close by. So that’s what we did. She lived about 40 minutes after tube removal and died at approximately 1:30 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time.

Eventually, her sons and I went to lunch at a Mexican restaurant where her husband joined us. I am not a fan of Mexican food but I ate a huge lunch. After lunch, we parted – some going south, me going north. On the way home I stopped at a Walgreens – to use their ATM, and to buy some Alka Seltzer.

Yesterday, taking the slippers to the UPS store for their return, I was both incredibly sad and a little amused. In listening to all the stories, I had learned that Jayne had very hot feet. Why had I not known that? Slippers would have been a least desired present – although she would have been politely grateful.

I showed them to her at the hospital. She was probably grateful that she would never have to wear them. I’ll bet she enjoyed the irony.

I so enjoyed her.

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