I know people are going to get tired of this, but it is that time of year again when Ann goes dark. I don’t mean that I’m getting too much sun. I mean I’m getting introspective and “judgy.”
The second anniversary of my father’s death is the 25th of July, and my friend Leah passed away at a terribly young age from breast cancer on the 26th. It would be great if and when those dates slide right by me and I realize afterward that I missed them completely, but for now, it’s still too new and I still catch myself making a mental note to tell one or the other of them something funny before I recall I can’t.
On July 23rd of 2010, Eric, Leah’s husband, was posting this on Caring Bridge – “Leah is holding on. Her strength is still keeping her going. She is much the same as she was this morning. She has zero pain. She is sleeping well. We still expect her to pass at any moment, but it could be another day or two I guess.
“Teagan,” (side note from me: Leah’s 5-year-old daughter) “stopped by today. I was concerned that this could go horribly wrong. It didn’t. It went well. Teagan gave her a few hugs and kisses. She seemed to be okay with the fact that Leah is not really here anymore, and will not be here at all soon.
Guess what else? You won’t guess it, so I’ll tell you. The room that Leah is in was also Tom Landry’s room. Tom Landry was the first coach of the Cowboys, and stayed the coach for 29 seasons, winning two of the Cowboys 5 super bowls and inventor of the 4-3 defense. Tom Landry is idolized in this part of the country, and a stretch of Interstate 30 between Dallas and Fort Worth is called Tom Landry Highway. Also of note: he was interred at Sparkman-Hillcrest, which is where we will have Leah’s services. So, Tom led the way, and is probably waiting to guide Leah. I told her this. Perhaps that is why she is holding out. She would rather it be a Redskin-affiliated angel.”
It’s amazing that Eric was able to find any opportunity to make light. They are lucky they have pages and pages of notes on Caring Bridge – from 2008 until 2010 – of Leah’s (and Eric’s) experiences and hopes. (Although still having Leah would be far superior.) Those who choose to can go back through the full two years of posts and hear her voice in every line and wisecrack.
Frustratingly opposite of that was my father, who departed so quickly there wasn’t a chance to prepare. What we did wind up with is a mystery that still fascinates and frustrates me. My father always jotted things down or doodled. Apparently, after his stroke, as they were wheeling him into the ER, he was unable to talk but was signaling my stepmother with his hand – moving his thumb like he was holding a pen and clicking it.
My stepmother handed him a pen and notepad. What followed was 11 pages of testimony to his rapid deterioration. I have stared at these pages a hundred times and still can’t decide if he knew what was happening and was frustrated by his inability to communicate it, or if he was – I don’t know – just trying to ask for his eye glasses or medicine out of the tote bag that he mentions. From what I see on these pages, it looks as though he is writing the word “brain” a lot. Several notes repeat “VOF tote bag.” That’s a bag with the Voices of Freedom logo on it. I think he asks for a pencil. Perhaps the pen wasn’t writing well upside down?
At one point he seems to give up writing and starts drawing. I can see a head and an arrow pointing to the back of it. Maybe that’s where he felt the stroke had taken place? There was also some supposition that he was trying to write DNR.
It doesn’t matter how many times I review them; they aren’t going to tell me a story, or explain what he was thinking or feeling. What they amount to is frustration. I’m looking for clues where there are none. What could he possibly have conveyed at that point that needs additional study?
I’m just glad he had a chance to try to communicate. I don’t even carry a functioning pen in my purse, much less paper. If I’d been with him, he’d have been scribbling with a tube of lipstick on a deposit slip – or an old receipt. (Note to self: start carrying pens and note pads.)
Who knows – maybe someday we will find someone who can break apart the layers of writing and they’ll find something that really surprises us. Like the number of a bank account in Switzerland…
Hmmmm. Maybe that’s what is in the VOF tote bag.
In conclusion: Everybody keep it together out there. We’re almost through the month.