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Memoir - And Then Loss




One fall day in 2014 Dick and I decided on another three-day adventure in Taos, NM. We loved that area so much. We drove down to see the fall colors and visit old friends. Patches of aspen’s brilliant yellows glowed among the deep green of the pines and firs as we drove up the narrow canyon towards the Taos Ski Valley. The tall mountains of the area swept up to the sky across the street from our cabin.

While there, we hiked the rocky Gavalin trail one day and the Yerba trail the next. The trails were steep and rocky but oh so beautiful as we walked under tall, straight aspens and pines reaching for the heavens. The trails were shaded by the high canopy of fluttering yellow Aspen leaves. The bright colors of compact blue spruce and red sumac popped up here and there. We balanced on one rock after another at the multiple crossings of the clear stream that romped beside and across the trail.

We drove out to the Rio Grande del Norte camp grounds at Wild Rivers area north of Taos, where we had delivered the Hatch chilies, to hike the rim of that deep narrow canyon where we had camped so many times, just the two of us as well as with family. On the way, we stopped at a little market in Questa for fresh baked French bread and ham and cheese. Chipmunks waited patiently for crumbs as we ate our lunch overlooking the steep, red- and rust-colored walls of the canyon. We strolled through the cedars and sage along the rim. With winter fast approaching, the park was empty of campers and we had the place to ourselves.

We delighted in the New Mexico and Colorado scenery all the way home. So many years in Colorado and it still felt like vacation every day when I looked out to see those deep-blue or shining, white, snow-covered mountains on the horizon.  




As the cold of the 2015 winter moved in and held us inside, Dick decided we needed time away and mentioned a Christmas Tahiti Cruise. I suffer with the heat in tropical climates, I burn easily in the sun and as a senior am self-conscious in a swim suit. I vacillated. Dick persisted. Skeptical, I bought the appropriate attire. What a trip. What a beautiful exceptional trip.

Planning a trip in October for December is late. Airlines are booked. The only flight we could get would get us into Papeete, Tahiti days before our cruise. We decided to go anyway and made hotel reservations on the island for those extra days. On the day of our flight, there was a pilot’s strike. Our plane was delayed, would we make our connections?  Finally, we landed on the island of Tahiti. We loaded onto buses out of the crowded airport to ride through the bustling city of Papeete, across the island to our stunning hotel on the coast, The Meridian. The hotel’s massive four stories high peaked roof came into view. It sheltered the completely open lobby from front to back that flowed into the open-air restaurant on the ocean side. Rooms were to the sides and in other buildings on the property. We settled into our room and immediately strolled the hotel grounds. Palm trees, Flame trees and tropical flowers surrounded a large swimming pool with a beach. Two other restaurants blended into the ocean beach further out. At the long, wide beach down at the ocean level, one could recline under umbrellas, make sand castles, play in the water, swim or rent a kayak. We did them all. Kayaking across that crystal clear water in the lagoon to look out over the blue, blue ocean was magic. Thatched huts dotted a walkway that stretched out into the ocean where one could stay instead of a room in the hotel. The sunset was a tropical spectacular followed by entertainment during dinner in the open-air restaurant.

Dinner was a sumptuous buffet, table after table to choose from. After dishes and food were cleared away, dancers began to wend their way to the stage. Lithe and brown with hips undulating, women in floor length grass skirts moved seductively to smooth music. Their dark eyes smiled at us from under their long dark hair. They danced and moved in unison as they spoke to us with their beautiful hands.

Then, to explosive drums, muscled dark men ran in, waving grass pom poms. They spread their muscular legs, bent at the knee, under their short grass skirts and twirled those pom poms in unison. The yelled and grunted as they leapt and danced until we were on our feet applauding.  

We would pull on a swim suit, t-shirt and flip flops and were ready for another day of eating and kayaking and eating. Soon the day arrived to get on our bus for the drive to the dock where we would board the sleek, white Wind Spirit. The four masted, 350-foot-long sailing ship shone in the tropical sunshine. We boarded along with the other 120 cosmopolitan passengers.

We had entered a small lobby upon boarding the ship. A wide clear glass mobile reached from floor to ceiling. The hostess greeted us behind a small reception desk. She and all personnel for that matter, knew us by name, facial recognition as if she had known us for years. Our state room was roomy with a queen size bed, dinning nook, ample storage and small bathroom, pardon, head. Peering out the port hole above our bed, we watched porpoises arch in the ships wake. The open teak decks stretched fore and aft. An upper deck housed a buffet where one could eat breakfast and lunch inside with AC or outdoors on the deck. There was an indoor restaurant below for luxurious evening dinning. On our first night out, the aft deck was turned into a massive bar-b-que area with tables and live music.

There were ninety-nine crew members to see that our every wish came true. Those men and women came from all around the world. We heard multiple languages from crew and guests. Those crew members signed on for six months. They had four hours to get the ship ready for the next cruise as each cruise ended and to learn each of the new 100 plus passenger names and photographs. The ship was immaculate at all times and our state room was kept neat and clean continuously with towel sculptures on our pillows each night.

We sailed from island to island at night. A favorite for Dick and me was to sit on the fore deck late evening and watch the sails unfurl. We loved that quiet time, usually just the two of us, watching as the wind caught the sails, watching as the stars appeared and we sailed into the night and the dark open sea.

One of those nights when just the two of us were on deck, we walked to the door of the well-lighted bridge. The German captain invited us in and gave us a tour of the equipment and explained how they sailed the ship.

Each morning the ship docked at the next island in a protected lagoon and we could choose a tour of the island or visiting a near Motu to swim. We spent a full day at each of the six islands we visited, two days on Bora Bora.  We spent time on a small Motu (motooo), a two-to-three-acre sandy islet sprinkled with coconut trees, flowers and wide sandy beaches. There are said to be 18,000 Motus in French Polynesia. We swam and snorkeled and lolled on the beach on padded lounges. Around noon, lunch arrived from the ship. A big tent, tables covered with white cloths, chairs, drinks and lovely food.

One evening all 120 passengers dressed for the occasion and were transported by small boats to a four-acre Motu where huge tents stretched over table after table of exotic foods. We were handed a cocktail in a coconut shell as we stepped off the boat and shown to long tables where we visited with fellow passengers and watched the last of a glorious sunset until the buffet was opened. It was well after dark by the time the tables were cleared and an explosion of drums and men in short grass skirts and headdresses burst into the clearing among our tables. The only light on the islet was their blazing torches, single torches, torches burning on both ends. We delighted in their dances and acrobatic moves while twirling and throwing those blazing batons. 

Some of the islands are mountainous, new, not worn down yet by rain and wind and time, populated for only 2,000 years. The palms and Flame trees, the profusion of flowers, the turquoise to deep blue waters, the soft breezes - we were indeed in paradise.

One special day we were picked up by Hai Mao (Hay Mow,) a seventy-six-year-old Polynesian native tour guide. He was decked out in a big hand-made straw hat, floral sarong, leis of flowers and personality plus. Ten of us haoles (howlees) boarded a small covered boat for a tour around Bora Bora. Three of his “aunties” boarded at the last minute and sat at the back of the boat. His story was that he still lives in the native way.

“I eat one meal a day. I build a big fire in the pit filled with stones in front of my hut. I wrap the coconut or bread fruit I have gathered during the day, and any meat I have hunted, in palm leaves and place all on the hot stones and coals. I cover that with leaves and soil. The next morning, I have a delicious meal.”

Hai Mao was delightfully funny and entertaining, his animated, wrinkled, brown face flashed a smile as he told us about life on the islands when he was young.

“I never married, like in the old way I have fathered thirty children,” he claimed. “I still live like in the past, no running water, no electricity. We have no jobs. Work is slavery. I don’t need to work. As he was repeating his “I don’t need a job. Work is slavery,” spiel, his cell phone rang.

“Sure boss, OK boss.”

 Christmas night on the Wind Spirit was a formal affair with a multi course meal. Fifty of the crew personnel, dressed in glitzy, formal attire sang Christmas Carols to us from their native lands.                             




I was ready for another trip to Texas to see family, but instead of my flying down, renting a car and driving to see everyone, Dick was ready for another long driving trip and suggested we include the Texas family time. He planned another 8,000 plus mile drive. Our first stop in Big Bend along the Rio Grande was incredible.

A hot two-day drive brought us to Big Bend National Park in west Texas. I simply could not imagine anything worthy of a visit in August in Texas. Once in the area, we drove for miles without seeing a single car. We began to see the desert plants of ocotillo, cactus and yucca as they replaced juniper and scrub oak.  We turned into the park and were surprised and delighted by the table size sage covered in purple blooms surrounding us. Wild flowers, small but of many colors, bordered the two-lane hot top. All of the desert plants were blooming. We had gotten lucky and were entering the park after a rare and unusual wet year.

 A tragic start to our entry into the park. Crows feeding on road kill ahead of us startled and rose in mass. Among them was a beautiful red tail hawk and he jumped too late. His four foot wing span and beautiful red, flared tail spread across our windshield.  

As we began to climb, green oaks, pine trees and lush green grass appeared among massive rock formations. The beauty of the place captured us. We drove switchbacks through the lush growth, so unlike Texas in summer, until at the top we entered the park’s wide parking area and lodgings. There was a small museum, grocery store and a large building with the office and gift shop and large restaurant. The restaurant’s wall of windows overlooked the park and the plains below.

We were up early each morning and had coffee on the long, covered porch in front of our room in the cool air before walking to the restaurant for breakfast. Our room was one of six or eight in a row overlooking “The Window,” a break in those huge red rocks where we could view the plains below. Dick hand fed tame squirrels and jays, accustomed to tourists, who perched on the railing. We saw roadrunners up close on our hikes and a little brown bear cub ran across our path one day. Expecting mama bear to be close behind I was behind Dick in a flash. I guess I was going to let her eat him first. She never appeared. 

In the evenings, after dinner, after a day of exploring and hiking, we sat on our porch and gazed across those plains far below as they spread away to the west and marveled at the streaky orange sunsets.

I was so captivated by the beauty and history of Big Bend I was inspired to write the fictional story “The Ranch,” after that trip.

After Big Bend, we spent time with my Texas daughters and their families. The time there was too short for me. It had taken years for Dick to feel comfortable being with members of my family and he was eager to get away. The trip he had planned kept us on a tight schedule, so the time with family was limited.  We drove to Nags Head where Paula met up with us to swim and spend two days on the beach. Paula charmed Dick with her sweet attentive personality and we and enjoyed her company. We three enjoyed the sun, surf, seagulls and lovely seafood.

Peg and John had moved back to Colorado during 2015. Amy had become pregnant, had a baby boy and they had bought her a small house a few blocks from their home. Paula had followed a boyfriend to North Carolina and was selling Real Estate. Because of Amy’s handicaps, by the time Noah was two, it became evident that she could not raise a child on her own. Paula bought a large house in North Carolina where all five of them could raise Noah and they all moved in. 

We moved along, and On Dick’s birthday we stayed with Dick’s best friend Nev Todd and his wife in their delightful house on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland. Dick and Nev were roommates in college and remained devoted friends. We made arrangements to meet Nev a few days later in Cazenovia for another three-day Syracuse reunion.

On the way to Cazenovia, we visited other old friends from McDonald Douglas days in Great Falls, Virginia. Their beautiful home in forested rolling hills was surrounded by sprawling, white fenced horse farms. At times, dear and those beautiful, shining horses grazed together, just like the pictures in the travel magazines.

After the reunion, we visited Dick’s brother Chuck in Manchester, VT. Chuck and his wife Ann, housed Ann’s grandchildren as they became college age and came to the US from Africa. Ann’s daughter had married an African chieftain and had seven children. Three were in the US at the time of our visit. They were tall, handsome, intelligent, charming young people. With their sparkling personalities and ambition, they were a joy to be with. Ann’s other daughter had a large farm outside the city and we were invited to explore. The visiting African cousins alternated staying with Chuck and Ann and their four cousins on the farm. That visit later inspired my fiction story “African Adventure.”

From Vermont, long days of driving to Maine and from Maine into Canada. Once in Canada, on our twenty-fifth day, the car developed a problem which required two days with a mechanic in a very small town in a less than wonderful motel until we could drive on. More long driving days.

Nova Scotia was different with unusual sights and experiences and of course, delicious seafood. Our hotel was right on the Bay of Fundy so we witnessed that amazing fifty-foot tide daily. Fifty-foot tides! Boats left on the floor of the bay lying on their sides until the tide rushed back in.

We took a huge, white, double deck ferry for a delightful day on Prince Edward Island the second day. It was remarkable how quickly the workers efficiently loaded and unloaded line after line of cars onto and off two levels in minutes. As we docked on the return trip from Prince Edward, our car would not start!

We were the first car in line to unload. No one else could move. Within seconds, out of nowhere, four men in jump suits with battery and jumper cables were all over our car. Embarrassing for sure, but unloading was delayed no more than thirty seconds. Our greatest concern was the car. More car trouble so very far from home.

The final phase of that trip involved too many miles of driving between destinations, far too many. Dick would be exhausted at each day’s end after five hundred plus miles of creeping along tree lined roads behind a truck. Nothing to see but green tunnels and the same thing the next day.

But finally, Mt. Rushmore and it was very nice even though it rained on us all day. A slow drizzle, but we took in every trail to get views of the mountain from multiple angles and enjoyed the museum but then home and I was glad to be there.



For Dick’s eighty fourth birthday I bought him a blowup, two-person kayak. Our week in Tahiti had introduced us to kayaking. We found we worked well together and loved paddling around, viewing the coral and fish there. The blowup was another thing. Mid-summer, we drove to Lake City, Colorado, a small, quaint, high mountain city surrounded by fourteeners. The population of 376 people swells in the summer tourist season, but we got a room in a quaint hotel probably built in the forties, but with modern, adequate accommodations.

The following morning, we drove to the lake. Our eighty-year-old bodies sporting swimsuits and life jackets, we pumped up the kayak. With the rocks killing our tender feet, we dragged the kayak behind us to the water. We had drawn a crowd by then watching from a wooden dock that extended out into the lake. I tried to get into the kayak. Being rubber it just squished down and hunkered onto the rocks. We pumped in some more air. We pulled it further out into the water, knee deep. Dick tried to get in and his weight just sank that boat to the bottom. After pulling it out into deeper water we did manage to get in by rolling over the soft sides which of course sagged and let water pour in. That little boat for two was so small Dick’s legs were cramped and painful. We lasted a quarter of a mile and pulled into a little cove and sat on the grass bank for a while. The boat was made in China, evidently for much smaller people than the two of us and I am five foot two.

We changed places, he got in front and I went to the back to see if he would be more comfortable. It was worse. So much for our short test run. We paddled back to the dock and hobbled on the painful rocks to drag the boat onto a level place. We massaged the air out of our little kayak, folded it neatly and loaded it into the car and put in on a shelf in the garage.



Mid 2018 we decided to fly to Nags Head, North Carolina. Dick, being raised on the east coast, loved swimming in the cold Atlantic. We stayed at the Nags Head Inn. It became our standard home base each time we went to what became a favorite beach for us. We stopped near Raleigh at Peg’s house where she and John had retired in the big house with Paula, big enough to hold them, Amy and Amy’s little boy Noah. That African saying, “It takes a village,” came to mind. Amy would need help with Noah and the family had made the commitment to make that little boy their priority. 

When we flew back in to DIA from that trip, we took the shuttle to remote parking to struggle our luggage into our car. It was midnight and we were exhausted. The car would not start. Dead battery? Luckily, the parking lot’s patrol car, making its rounds, came by and the attendant jumped our car. Wouldn’t start. The man began to dig around under the hood and announced, “Rats. Rats have eaten the casings off the wires.”

“Oh good grief?”

“It happens here. We are surrounded with these wide-open fields. Sorry. Let me see what I can do.”

He got tools, scrapped and clipped and jumped us again and got the car running until we could get home. We were so grateful for his help. Anytime one of our cars wouldn’t start after that we both chorused, “Must be rats.”



Dick’s grandson Kacy invited us to visit him and his lady Katie in Burlington, Vermont. They had positions at a very upscale, private resort just out of the city. Since Katie had a managerial position and Kacy was the sou chef, they managed to get us a reservation for dinner at the lodge one of the nights we were there. The two of them were able to take time off and tour us around the area to view the beautiful fall colors as the oaks and shrubs turned red and yellow. The still green lawns, sprinkled with gold and red leaves led up to porches banked with golden chrysanthemums. When Kacy and Katie had to work, we took the ski lift up the mountain for a beautiful hike one day and Dick and I toured the handsome little town exploding with fall flowers, scare crows and colorful banners.

Katie and Kacy introduced us to their fellow staff members who welcomed us by praising Katie and Kacy. They all served the four of us our exceptional seven course dinner that last evening there. As we were bidding everyone adieu, preparing to drive back to our motel, my cell phone buzzed in my pocket. I had a message from Reese, my grandson.

“Mom had a heart attack last night, has had surgery to place two stints to overcome blockage. She is awake and doing well.”

I looked up at Dick, Kacy and Katie standing there in the lobby, interrupted their conversation and said, “My daughter Cris has had a heart attack.” I am sure my eyes were big and round to match my surprise. I called Reese as soon as we arrived at our motel.

Mom is doing great. She will probably go home tomorrow,” he said. We drove to the airport the following morning greatly relieved.

Reese texted, “Mom still in intensive care. They are trying to get her blood pressure under control.”

We arrived at DIA early evening. Text from Reese.

“Mom not doing well. Her lungs have filled with fluid. Having a hard time breathing.” I began to look for plane reservations.

Next day. “Mom improved. Awake and eating.”

Next day. “Mom has been incubated.”

I flew to Texas the following morning. My daughters, Anna and Peggy, met me at the airport. Peggy had flown in from North Carolina, Anna had picked her up at Love Field and the two of them drove to DFW to meet my flight. They were concerned about me, knowing I would be worried, so parked and were at the luggage carousel when I walked up.

We grabbed one another in a threesome embrace. I was so glad to see them. “How are you doing?” one asked.

“I am a basket case. I hardly know what I am doing.” They took me by the arm, grabbed my luggage and we walked to Anna’s SUV. Anna is an excellent driver, knows Ft. Worth and Dallas like the back of her hand. We put ourselves in her hands over the following week.

Incubated, Cris could not speak and was heavily sedated. We spent time holding her hand and stroking her hair and visiting with Reese. His wife and four-year-old daughter came later in the day. Day by day, Cris would have a good day and then fail again. Her abdomen began to swell and she complained. She was in and out of awareness. Soon they rushed her to emergency surgery where they removed part of her colon.

We three could not overnight with Reese at his house, they had kitties and we were all allergic. Anna’s mother-in-law, Barbara Leach, invited us to stay in her big house. She lived alone, we were old friends, she was a life saver. We bought groceries and prepared dinner late each evening after a day at the hospital and breakfast early each morning. Barbara ate with us a couple of times but often had appointments or activities and was away. She made us feel welcome and we enjoyed her company.

The week flew by with days of hope, “Oh she is better.” We struggled with sign language for she remained incubated. She tried to write but couldn’t. She begged for water. We were allowed to moisten her mouth with a wet swab.

Friends and family came and went. They would bring lunch and we took over an entire waiting room. By the end of that first week Peggy needed to fly home. Anna needed to go back to Killeen to put in a few hours at work. Reese needed to go back to work. They were concerned about leaving me alone, I would need to rental a car. Over my assurances that I would be fine, Randy rented a two-bedroom apartment near the hospital and drove down from Colorado to stay with me and drive me to and from the hospital. He and I bought groceries and made dinner and breakfast in our roomy, lovely apartment.   

Randy had arrived on Friday before Peg and Anna left the following Monday. Mike and Maggie drove down. It had been a while since all four of the siblings had been together. Audrey, my adorable great grandchild, Reese’s little girl, was having her fourth birthday so her mother, Danielle, bought balloons, streamers and hats. We all brought gifts. Anna’s entire family came back up from Killeen and all seventeen of us took over an empty corner lobby at the hospital. It was the weekend and the hospital was unusually quiet. We had a great party with birthday cake, a welcome break from worry and grief.

Throughout that weekend my wonderful family group spent time together. We had dinner together each evening and laughed and cried together. Over the next week, Cris continued to improve then fail again. Was it the doctors that led us to believe that we just needed to wait this out until she could get strong again or did we convince ourselves?

Reese, a very macho man, was there for Cris almost every moment from the time of her heart attack. He asked questions of the doctors and nurses, he pursued them, he stayed on top of her care at all times. When he was out of town working, he called the nursing station every evening to get a report. I walked into Cris’ room one day to find him shaving his mother’s legs. “She would be upset to have hairy legs if she was more aware,” he said. Now that’s devotion.

His twin brother Andy was having a very hard time handling his mother’s illness. He had been living with her for several months while trying to work as he coped with his bipolar emotions and anxieties. He visited the hospital late at night after work, after we had all gone. When we did get to see him, his tall six-foot frame would shake with grief as he hugged Peggy or Anna or held my little short body so tight I could hardly breath. He would bury his bearded face in my shoulder and sob.

Danielle and Cris were close. They often spent time together when Reese was out of town working. She could communicate with Cris better than any of us at the hospital and came to the hospital almost every day after work. On weekends she would brush and braid Cris’ long hair. Cris lit up when Danielle and Audrey walked into her room.

Randy and I drove home to Colorado. Reese was off for the week and would be there with his mother. Dick had fallen apart the first week I was away and had called non-stop berating me, insisting I come home. His family took him to task, the second week was a little better and he was very happy to see me when I got home. When the call came that Cris had a heart valve leak and needed surgery right away, risky, but unavoidable, I was off for Texas again.

Once again, Anna picked me up at DFW and she and I stayed with Barbara. Cris’ condition worsened; they could not operate. She would rally a little, but not enough. The heart valve leak was weakening her each day. The doctors continued to tell us, “We must wait until she is stronger to perform the much-needed surgery,” and we did not ask the obvious, “How can she get better with a heart leak?

Being Medicare, she was soon dismissed from the hospital and moved to a nursing home. I flew home. She immediately began to fail. Obviously, it was the care, or rather lack of care, she was receiving at the new facility. Reese went into overdrive and raged and demanded until his mother was moved back to Intensive Care at the hospital and even with the heart valve leak and lungs filled with fluid, she rallied.

Reese found a much nicer recovery center and once again, she was moved. I couldn't say enough about the exemplary, caring, devoted care Cris received in every area of the hospital and the second nursing facility. Those wonderful nurses, men and women, went above and beyond every day, day after day. They laughed with Cris and teased and listened to her every request. They were sympathetic to her pleading for water, wetting her tongue with a sponge. She spent four months without a drink for fear of choking. They carefully answered all our questions and gave detailed information to each of us on the phone as we called each night to check on her when we were away.

I wanted to spend Christmas with Cris. Dick was more than disappointed and was not doing well. His teeth had gone bad and a dentist Dick would not give up because he was, “an old friend,” did a poor job of repair. Dick was losing weight and had passed out once again. His son Dave and family came to the house to shore him up the night before my flight and to assure me they would look after him. It had been raining and cold for days in Texas and they gave me a beautiful all-weather coat. They also brought hand sanitizer and vitamins to protect me. COVID 19 had raised its ugly head.


I know the heart of you,

I know the smart of you,

I know the highs and the lows

And the triumphs and the blows

That you have had in this life.

As I have grieved and railed

At your heart that has failed

I want, cry out and demand

To be there holding your hand

As you live each day of this life.

I will come as soon as I can

To be with you and speak again

Of my love and remember the years

Of your growing and smiling and tears

As you live these days of your life.

I picked up my rental car at DFW and drove to the hotel close to the nursing facility where I had a room reserved. The nursing facility was very nice, clean and modern. Cris’ lungs cleared. She was no longer incubated. We could communicate better and she was awake more during the week I was there. Anna’s family had celebrated Christmas early so she and I spent most of Christmas day with Cris until she left for home late evening. Reese and family came later in the day. I was to fly out the afternoon of the twenty sixth. That morning Cris and I were alone.  I combed and braided her hair and gave her a massage. She made a point to let me know the hair was OK but not as good as Danielle always did it. I held her hand and she held on tight. I finally said I had to go.

As I kissed her cheek she whispered, “Don’t go.”

Oh my god.” I screamed inside my head. I bent over her and we stayed close for a while. I told her I loved her and she said, “Good-by, I love you.”

The leakage from the faulty valve in Cristy’s heart worsened. I flew back to Texas. They moved her to another room. We finally asked the doctors what to expect. “How long can she go on like this?”

“Not long. It is just a matter of time.” Even though we knew that, one reels when it is spoken.

Reese, Anna and I rehearsed all day how to give this news to Cris. We were trembling, we spoke, struggling not to cry. Reese spoke first explaining she could not get better. She nodded. Not much reaction. “Did she understand?” we wondered. After Reese and Anna left for the night, staring straight ahead at the TV, no emotion, she asked me, “How long will this process take?”

“I don’t know Cris.”

She nodded.

We made arrangements for hospice.

She rallied. Her lungs cleared, she sat up, she laughed at Reese’s teasing. He brought an ice cold can of Coke and handed it to his mother. The look on her face as she savored that drink after months without fluid was indescribable. She enjoyed visitors and drank two more cans of Coke before falling asleep.

“Have the doctors made a mistake? Should we really be taking her to hospice?

Over the next two days she became confused and pulled at her clothes and complained.

The boy’s father Eugene and his wife Kay appeared at Cris’ door. Seeing me, they hesitated. We had not had contact for years. The old crises, when the boys were little, suddenly filled the air. He had been estranged from the boys off and on for years, but I was well aware of the efforts he had made in recent years to be a better dad. I walked quickly to them to embrace Gene and greet Kay to make them feel welcome. They were there for Cris over the next few days. They lived on a farm hours out of town and stayed in town with Gene’s mother, the boy’s grandmother. Cris seemed glad to see them when awake.

Over the next few days Cris would rally, we would feel encouraged. The doctors would tell us again, this is deceiving. It is just a matter of time.”

Dick’s phone calls vacillated between pleading with me to come home and anger.

We, Gene and Kay and Anna and I, began to pack the cards and gifts. Eugene and Kay said their last goodbyes. Cris seemed unaware. Attendants took Cris to an ambulance and Anna and I moved my gear from the hotel to hospice preparing for a lengthy stay. I could stay with Cris night and day. Anna would continue to stay with Barbara each night. Hospice was very upscale and beautiful but like a funeral home. By the time we joined Cris in her room, they had washed and braided her hair. She lay peacefully asleep in a clean gown, tucked in with warm covers.

Expecting the same up and down, rally then fail, Cris had been locked into, Anna and Reese left for the evening. The next morning, knowing I would be there night and day, Reese rushed off for at least one week on the job. He had been off from his out-of-town job so much he was eager to get a little time in.  Anna met up with Danielle for lunch and brought a sandwich back for me. I was eating my sandwich when I noticed Cristy’s breathing change. Her chest heaved. I walked over to her and saw that she was struggling. Anna rushed to the nurse’s station. As I spoke to Cris, I grasped her arm with one hand and stroked her hair with the other. The nurses and Anna rushed in and one nurse put her stethoscope to Cris. She looked at me and shook her head. I tightened my grasp on Cris. Cris heaved one last breath as the nurse said, “She is gone.”

I cried out and my legs collapsed. Someone pushed a chair under me as I sobbed. I continued to hold on to Cris with everything I had, screaming, “Don’t Go!” in my head. I could feel her life, her essence flowing out of her. I had been there when she drew her first breath as she separated from by body and despair filled my chest and poured out of me as she left me. The nurse continued to monitor her with the stethoscope and finally announced the time of death.

I don’t remember the next few hours clearly. Anna called Reese. “She’s gone.” I can only imagine how horrible the next hour, two hours, turning around, driving back must have been for him alone in that truck.

We waited for Reese. Danielle and Audrey came in answer to Anna’s call. We sat there dazed, tears. I could not speak. Others reminisced. Reese spent some time with his mother and they took her away. A nightmare we were never going to wake from.   

Cris died February 1, 2020. Four long months of dying. She was fifty-six years old. We all went home.

Because of COVID, we delayed a memorial indefinitely but by March I was desperate to celebrate her life, to be with those who loved her, COVID be damned. I insisted and Dick flew to Texas with me. We, friends and family, gathered in Ft Worth and tried to focus on the good years of her life. We all brought photographs and spread them across long tables and reminisced as we gazed upon her young life, motherhood, her beautiful face. Reese provided small urns with Cris’ ashes for me and each of her siblings. They and Reese have scattered her ashes in beautiful places she was never able to go. I still have her with me.

The crystal-clear memories of my daughter’s death visit me often and I live them over and over. I am unable to show much emotion in public, even with my close, loving children, but I sob, descend into depths, unable to breath, gasping, exhausted with grief when alone. Loss of so many vacuum my body and mind at times leaving me spent and wet with tears when alone. Any time my children were in danger, in crises, a clearness of mind moved in like a shining light that made everything clear and calm to make them safe. I knew exactly what to do and could move quickly to protect them. I could not protect Cris. I could not save her.


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