Sunday, February 10, 2013

Day by Day

Clockwise from left, Fay, Beulah, Grace, Maisy, Gloria and Winnie on September 7, 2010

Aunt Grace was taken to the hospital this afternoon. She has infected fluid around the lungs and heart and is resting, not particularly comfortably. But she is being treated with antibiotics and anti inflammatories and is being monitored by my sister-in-law, a cardiologist. I just spoke with her.

I called my mom and updated her, because no one else had told her anything more than that Aunt Grace has the flu. Yesterday she complained to me that her sisters were trying to minimize how serious everyone's illnesses are. She said, "I am not a child or an idiot who has to be protected from the truth. Of course I'm going to worry if someone is in the hospital and of course I am going to be sad if a loved one dies, but we are all in the departure lounge now, and we have had long and good lives, so this is how it is."

In Virginia, my cousins thought Aunt Maisy would die last night, so labored was her breathing. She, too, has a lung infection, which the nurses treated all afternoon and evening, while several of my cousins who live in the area, and many of their friends gathered in Aunt Maisy's hospital room, about a dozen souls in all, singing to her, reading her favorite verses, and laughing at family jokes and generally being festive around her. My cousin Karen said her mom would periodically open her eyes and see that someone else had joined them, and she would brighten for a moment and then drift off again.

My mom called them in the midst of this, and told Karen to instruct her mom that she was not allowed to "usurp" her position. My mom said, "Tell Maisy she is third in line and she is not allowed to go before Winnie or me. That is the rule." To which my other cousin Helen said, "But Aunt Gloria, of all the sisters, who is the one most likely to flaunt the rules?" They all had a good laugh over that, because Aunt Maisy has indeed always been the rebel rule-breaker.

Helen, who is an intuitive healer, leaned over Aunt Maisy at one point and said to her, "Aunt Maisy, you do whatever it is you want to do. If you want to stay here for a while longer, we will be so happy for the time with you, but if you want to go, you know that there are many others waiting to welcome you. So do what you want. We will be okay."

Around midnight, the breathing treatments seemed to be starting to work, and the loud wheezing that had punctuated the afternoon began to grow softer and Aunt Maisy's breaths easier. One by one the group took their leave, except Aunt Maisy's son, who stayed the night in the recliner next to her bed. This morning, Aunt Maisy looked much brighter. She opened her eyes and said to her son, "Well, what a party we had here last night!"


  1. Wow. I am glad she wanted to stay a while longer.

  2. It's really breathtaking to read of your extended family -- the connections, the warmth, the humor and the tragedy inherent in everyone growing old. I am struck by how blessed you all are by sheer numbers -- I know that doesn't lessen the pain of leaving or losing -- but I can't help but think of those who often die alone or who leave people quite alone. I just finished reading Claire Bidwell Smith's beautiful memoir "The Inheritance of Loss," and was so moved by her story of being an only child and of losing both parents to cancer by the time she was barely twenty years old. I am so glad that you are here, Angella, writing and posting these gorgeous photos. I feel that over the years I've been given the privilege of learning to "know," a bit about these wonderful people in your family.

  3. That is a GREAT picture. They really have something special, all these sisters.

  4. You are surrounded by such amazing women. God, there are good stories in them. Thanks for sharing them. xo

  5. Your mom's comment is so wonderful. People forget that the elderly have a lifetime of coping mechanisms and are far stronger than we give them credit for.

  6. Wow. My own grandmother was one of six sisters, and a twin. My dad speaks of how wonderful it was to be in a room with his mom and all her sisters, laughing and carrying on.

    I just read a quote--by Maya Angelou, I'm pretty sure. She said when we grow old, we can be old ladies or wise women. I think you've got six wise women here (to second Ms. Moon)

  7. "The departure lounge" is such a perfect use of phrase.

    Angella, you really don't know how much it means to me to have a bloggy friend sharing this experience. I know I've thanked you before, but really, thank you. It's like you are including us all in the party, and I appreciate it immensely.