Today I spent a very long day in a hospital waiting room. Cheri’s sister-in-law is dying so her family is here to comfort one another, to try and arrange for hospice care so that she could go home for her last hours or days. I’m here to support Cheri.
Memories are triggered, free association begins.
I remember watching Willie die, in a hospital in Melbourne. We didn’t leave her unattended. Instead, I would trade shifts (mine was usually during the graveyard hours) with her sister Madeline and others, and read to Willie when she was awake. At the time she asked me to read The Bridges of Madison County to her, but she would sometimes shush me during the salacious parts, implying I was too loud for the neighbor on the other side of the room.
As Willie drew closer to the end, I wrote to my family and friends with a letter that said she was dying. My brothers rushed down from Virginia and northern Florida and my bio-mom (Patrick’s first wife) flew in from California.
Willie died on what should have been my watch, but I was running about half hour late and her sister was there when Willie passed away.
My free association continues.
I wounded my bio-mom with my eulogy, which was derived from the letter I wrote. I should have said that “one of my moms is dead” instead of “my mom is dead,” a phrase I chose for impact, but I can’t change that now.
By this time I had delivered other eulogies, including one to my father John.
My time in the hospital today here reminds me also of John and his next-to- last stay at a rehab hospital and the time before that with his foot amputation surgery, which was the scariest of his hospital trips for me.
I never saw Patrick during his hospitalizations but I did go with him to the hospital for some tests a month before he died.
Being here today reminds me of the value of a supportive family, and of how Cheri’s family will get through this because they are all close.
It also reminds me of other hospital visits with more positive outcomes, like when Caroline had a knee replacement and I spent the day there with her and Jonathan, or when Monique had her double mastectomy and I went to visit her at UCLA Medical Center, or shorter visits to see Wolfgang at UCLA the day Michael Jackson died, or the time I visited John M at Ventura County after his heart attack.
Of course, these things always seem to come full circle to my bio-dad Patrick. Sitting in the meeting to discuss hospice care and imminent end of life, I can’t help but remember Patrick’s last conversations, and his own decision, and how he accomplished it.
I can’t help but relive the struggle I felt in a foreign country, with no family there to help, with language and cultural barriers, and only his friends able to assist (and I thank the gods for them). I can’t help but remember standing in front of a huge crowd of people, people important to Patrick, and not being able to express myself in Spanish, or to properly acknowledge all they had done for him over the years.
Still, his ashes are atop Stephanie’s casket. The markers remain in place. His few belongings were shipped halfway around the world and delivered to the family members as he requested. His memorial concert resonated with every heart in the audience, honoring him in a way that would have made him fidget and want to hide, though in secret he’d be damned proud of this outpouring of love.
Here I am rambling in a hospital cafeteria, burning down my laptop battery. Hospice arrangements have now been made, medicine delivered, and special equipment is on its way. Soon an ambulance will pluck Gina from this hospital bed and deliver her to another. Soon she will pass away, surrounded by her family and the comfort of her own home, a place she prefers, just as Patrick chose his own place to die.
Today is not a day to speak openly about Patrick, to share my many stories with those who are facing the imminent loss of a loved one, so I’m keeping those thoughts to myself, choosing instead to scribble them here.
It’s hard knowing that someone is about to go, but the pain will be lessened by their strong family unit. Our focus is on Gina, with her gentle smile, her laughter in the most difficult times. Today is about her family, not mine, so I suppress my recollections, my tears, and the way I miss John and Willie, and Patrick.
In truth, I grieve for Gina’s family now, knowing what it is they face, and suppress my tears anew.
And I wish her smooth passage.
I’m the son of Patrick of Meadows.