Archive for October, 2013
To you, she may be Best-Selling Author Jacqueline Marten. To me and my brothers, she is something much greater. She is Mom, and right now I’m sitting by her right side, holding her hand. She is in hospice, being well-loved and cared for at Beth Sholom Village, surrounded by her four boys, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, her sister, neice, great-neice and great-nephew, dear friends, and even her best friend since college in 1940.
Mom suffered a major stroke and lost the ability to swallow eight days ago. She has been off hydration since Tuesday. Earlier this week Mom was communicating through lots of eye contact, squeezing and raising her right hand, and even managing occasional single words. She hasn’t opened her eyes in more than three days, and the small hand squeezes have yielded to involuntary jerks. Still, Mom is communicating her strong will, and the message she once gave a friend in the Village; “Don’t let them make you do anything you do not wish to do.” We’re making her as comfortable as possible.
Several times I have rushed my brothers to her room only for Mom to rally back. Three days ago I let my brother Seth make the call to bring everybody back at 4 a.m., surrounded by her four sons, daughters-in-law, and her baby sister, Stephanie, Mom rallied back stronger. Yesterday morning I waited until 6 a.m., and even the nurse thought this was it. Again everyone came back, and the prospects of visits with grandsons, and her best friend, (Nita to Mom – Anita to everyone else), and now the news that her great-granddaughter just got a baby brother minutes ago, were motivations to hang on.
Even though, again, it looked like she was taking her final breaths last night, and the nurses and staff that called her “their baby” held on through the night – to the continued amazement of each of her sons. We quipped, Mom was going to outlast each one of us. Through the tears we laughed in utter admiration of her force of will. We let her know she is an incredible Mother, a wonderful role model, and that we would be okay, and would take care of each other. She could let go now if she wanted to. She just doesn’t want to let go. Not yet.
The gathering of our family around Mom sometimes resembles something surreal, Ionesco or even Kafkaesque. It’s more like hanging with the Marx brothers, heavy traffic in one door, and out the other, punctuated by laughter, tears, and, more laughter with Mom lying there – actively absorbing and participating. Mom, I think, has always lived not only for the love of her family and cherished friends, but to show them her love and affection. Surrounded by it now – she has been in no rush to make her exit.
Understand, Mom loves her privacy, and prefers the solitude of her room or so we thought. Whenever we would make our at-least-weekly visits, we belonged to Mom. I worried. I thought she was living too secluded a life. i encouraged her to get out – meet her neighbors…. During my time at her side this week so many of her friends and neighbors have come, and spent such wonderful time with us. Her across-the-hall neighbor, Arlene, the most incredible nurses and Beth Sholom staff, all of whom continue to speak directly to Mom, and let me eavesdrop. They’ve combed and braided her hair, they still sing the songs they used to sing together, they are reminiscing. Arlene recalls how Mom suggested; “never let them make you do anything you don’t want to do.” One staff member said whenever it was bath time they had to speak in British accents: “It made it less invasive, and almost dignified fun.” So many more stories emerged which showed Mom was continuing to lead a rich, full life. Mom definitely prefers privacy – unless – she finds interesting company. Then she becomes the life of the party. One relative, very British, once said; If Jackie was having tea with the Queen, she would find the conversation and company of the scullery maid more fascinating. He was right, and she wore the observation as a badge of honor.
Days before her stroke she had to be coerced into a lunch outing, again, preferring her privacy, but once there was the headline entertainer during the meal. The day before her stroke she made a condolence call to her nieces’ on the death of her older sister’s husband – our Uncle Herb. She was sharp. Marti, a volunteer at Beth Sholom, came in and spoke of her three-hour conversations, including their mutual experiences writing for Confession Magazines. They agreed that they liked to slip in a moral rather than write the salacious stuff of the day.
Thank you Marcia, Lorna, Susan, Chris, Anna, Gail, Lara and the Chesapeake Romance Writers, the two Debbies who do mom’s braids, and sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Mel and Lori, the night nurses from heaven, and every nameless volunteer who have come into this room in such a loving and sensitive way. Thank you Beth. You helped us when Pop was passing, and now again. You and all the staff of Medi Home Health & Hospice are such selfless givers of dignity. Cantor Flax for your beautiful Baruchas, and the wonderful rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
My Baby, Hannah, who could not be here, but has made calls and spoken her messages directly to Mom. Pam, my dear friend, your long visits, which you called a sacred honor were above and beyond.
My Lisa, who keeps me in clean clothes, well-fed, and grounded, thanks for cutting through all the medical jargon these last years. Thanks for helping us prepare. Thank you for everything. You have no idea how much I love you.
Thank you for the music we have been able to share via Online. Never had a better use for a laptop. I don’t think I’ve made it through a single one without swallowing back tears or choking back sobs. Al Jolson for all those early memories, Shenandoah for a way to reach Mom when the squeezing was barely a trace, Judy Garland for showing her one more rainbow, and Irving Berlin for giving Mom and Dad their Song, and teaching us the Love they have for each other and for us lives on – Always.
To my brothers, I never laugh or cry as much as when we are all together. Now more than ever I am reminded why our love and friendship for each other meant so much to Mom and Dad.
For our friends and family; we are feeling the positive power of your genuine outpouring of Love. You have given us prayers for strength and wishes for Mom’s safe passage. Your visits meant so much. Those communications from your hearts have been so appreciated. Please know we have read each and every one out loud to Mom. Everyone agrees that the auditory is the last sense to go. So Mom has heard all your wishes, thoughts, and prayers. As Mom prepares to reunite with our Pop – her beloved Al – please accept our love and hugs in return.
Ethan, Seth, Jonathan, Richard, and Jacqueline
According to Ralph Waldo Emerson:
often and much,
to win respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch, or a
redeemed social condition;
to know even one life
has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
Thank you again, Nita and Barbara.