This was a day filled with gifts of the tangible and intangible kind, one of those days when angels seem to tap you on the shoulder and make your heart smile, even as the tears are falling. I knew that when the holidays arrived and I had a break from teaching, there were three things that I needed to do, that my heart needed me to do. One I accomplished last week when I went to The Home for Wayward Seniors and reconnected with my friends there. Today I met another of my goals…I went to see Theresa, Mom’s wonderful home nurse, to thank her face-to-face again for her kindness to my mother. It was very important for me to do that- this woman who Mom called her “Angel” is the finest care giver that I have ever met, her generosity of spirit and kindness shining crystal clear. She came to visit Mom in her last days, and came to me in the hospital the morning that Mom died, her heart hurting like mine was, her tears falling, too. She was with me when I had to accept Mom’s ashes when they were delivered with only an hour’s notice to Princeton Towers as I was there cleaning out Mom’s apartment. Theresa didn’t want me to be alone, and held the box with me as we walked together back to the apartment. She sat on the floor with me and hugged me, crying with me as I sobbed. She and I are forever connected, and I always want her to know she is part of my family.
A milkshake party…Heavy D, my friend Kathy White, and our angel, Theresa.
Theresa and Mom had a special bond the last year of Mom’s life. With all of the home health care workers that came and went, they just clicked. Mom requested that Theresa always be her nurse, and thankfully the company made it happen. Theresa did more than just check Mom’s vitals and care for her legs- she talked with her, listened to her, laughed with her. She was her friend. They shared a love of snowmen, and Mom made sure to instruct me to give her snowmen collection to Theresa after she died. Theresa called me soon after I helped her load the substantial collection into her car- it seems that one of the snowmen boxes had been full of family photos, and she wanted to return them to me. I have kept the box all these many months, alway intending to return it to her. We have texted on holidays and at other times just to say I love you, but I haven’t been ready to see her yet…until today.
I filled the snowman box with cookies that I had baked, and wrote a card to her, including a Sonic gift card, as she and Mom would often share Mom’s favorite treat- a large Sonic chocolate shake. She told me that she would be working at a rehab center that was right by where Dan and I would pass as we were out running holiday errands. The day was rainy and dreary, but I felt excitement about seeing Theresa…and I also worried that my emotions would overflow. Dan dropped me off at the door, as I told him I wanted to do this alone. I texted Theresa to let her know I was in the lobby, and the receptionist called her as well. In just a few minutes, she came into the room and walked toward me. We both began to cry and just held each other tightly for the longest time. She said, “I miss her, too. I wondered how I would feel when I saw you…it is so good to see you. Your mom would be proud of you.” We held our embrace, pulling away just enough to look into each other’s eyes as the tears rolled down our cheeks. I told her how much I appreciated what she did for Mom, how I would always love her. The receptionist looked on, saying, “Oh, this is just beautiful. This is the way it should be!”
I knew Theresa had to get back to work, and we made plans to have lunch together before I start the new semester so that we could really talk. We broke away twice and then went back for another hug each time. Feeling her wonderful hug felt like I was in my mother’s arms again. I can’t help but think how blessed we were to have people like Theresa there at the end of Mom’s life, along with so many other kind people- especially Mom’s Space People from the Open Group at Bedlam Farm. I had another reminder of this amazingly supportive group when I came home and found a package from a wonderful Space Person, Deb Rahalski. When I opened the package and saw its contents, I began to cry yet again- an adorable snowman wall hanging, accompanied by a snowman card, and some of the kindest words anyone has written to me. Dan commented that there are no coincidences, and that these things happened just when I needed them most. I am so very grateful. I will always love Christmas…and I will always miss my mother during this, her very favorite holiday.
Tomorrow I will meet my third goal- I will go to visit Mom’s wonderful primary care physician, Dr. Ballio. I haven’t seen her since right before Mom’s fateful fall, and even then she was counceling us that Mom would need to leave Princeton Towers soon to have more full-time care because of her mobility issues. I wrote to her after Mom passed, but I need to look her in the eye, hug her, and thank her for her unwavering kindness. I will also take cookies to our favorite nurse in the office. Gratitude should be shared…even if it has taken me a while to be strong enough to make it happen- and I am now.