Friday and Saturday: undertakings

Friday, October 16, 2015

Last Friday was the day I had to go to the funeral home to sign some forms. I decided to take Marty with me so I could give him a few little walks and I wanted to stop by the Wilbraham Library on my way home to ask about having Kathy’s celebration there.

The funeral home is in a neighborhood of Springfield and close to the town of Lulow. So, it was probably the closest funeral home that didn’t look fancy (on Google at least). It is in a working class neighborhood with mills that have been converted into small businesses and art studios. The vinyl sided building was a few doors down from a survival center thrift store.The manager was in the parking lot when I was walking Marty. He was friendly and said he would meet me inside. Up in a conference room on the second floor, we chatted for a moment. There were fancy posters on the wall with words like “Remembrance” and “Memories” on them. He said the obituary was fine and he already had it on their website. He said because we weren’t having a viewing or a casket or anything, I just had to sign the contract for the part they had done. He repeated that Kathy was delivered to Harvard that night. We talked about when the obituary should run and I hadn’t really thought about it much. I figured it should run Sunday if there was still time. He went in to print out the contract.

contractThen the sticker shock hit me. $3800 to donate a body to science. I was overwhelmed and depressed.

So much for pre-planning. He said he deducted the $600 stipend he would get from Harvard. The obituary was additional. That would probably be $600 because of the length and having a photo. My brother John put in the basics. I embellished it and added links for donations. So it was longer. He said if it costs less he will reimburse me. Mondays are a little less expensive. I asked if it would be cheaper just to cremate her body, but it was too late. I handed him my credit card. I left angry and feeling like a fool. He offered his condolences again, but I don’t think I thanked him.

I don’t really remember driving, but Marty and I made it to the Wilbraham Library. We took a little walk around the parking lot so we could collect our thoughts. I go to a dementia support group meeting in the Brooks Room there. The librarian said having the exhibit for a month there would be fine, but they were booked up until January or February. And if I had a private event that wasn’t open to the public, there would probably be a rental fee. I was supposed to go back on Sunday to talk to the director, but I never did.

I bumped into (not literally) my lawyer, Fred as I was driving out of the library. His office is right next to it. He asked me if I had time to stop in. He wanted me to bring Marty in but getting him back onto the back seat would be a heavy lift (literally). We chatted a bit. I told him I was trying to find a place to donate Kathy’s medical equipment: her bed and the Hoyer lift. He suggested calling my local state representative. They always have a local office with staff that are eager to help constituents. Then I told him about the funeral home. He said maybe the reps office has some grants or aid to help out with that too.

After lunch, I cleaned out Kathy’s pill box and tossed what meds I could into the trash. Some other meds I’ll need to bring to a medicine disposal day. I took apart the suction machine and cleaned it for pickup. I threw away all the tubing and the canister. If it had been a different time I might have kept it for some odd funky craft project or for one of my hacks.  But I need to move on.

Late in the afternoon the doorbell rang. I thought maybe it was one of my neighbors. Maybe they saw something on Facebook. Or flowers.

It was more underwear.

At least I got a chuckle out of it. The shipment must have gone out before I talked to Miguel at NaviCare. I also placed a few more calls to see about donating the hospital bed, but no one wanted it. It later turned out the bed didn’t belong to me anyway. It was rented. Good thing I didn’t get rid of it then.

I emailed a copy of Kathy’s obituary to Bonnie and Robin down at the UConn Huntington’s clinic. Bonnie was traveling, but she saw the email and called right away. She was very encouraging about the work I had done and the care I gave Kathy. She said Robin was out but would call me.

bittersweetSaturday, October 17, 2015

Marty and his kong several years ago. We were younger then.

Saturday was one of many bittersweet firsts to come. It wasn’t a first holiday or anything. Just the first Saturday. I got up and took my medicine and had two cups of coffee. I unlocked the front door, even though no aides are coming anymore. After a shower, I started some laundry. There were still a few sheets and pillowcases from Kathy’s bed that I thought should be washed before I put them away. I fed Marty. After that, he chased me around the house for 5 minutes, because that is about all we senior citizens can really handle. I can hear him shuffling up behind me with his Kong toy in his mouth. He makes a snorting noise because it fills his entire oral cavity. I made some french toast and gave a slice to him. Then I got all the recycling and trash ready. In small towns like Hampden, Saturday is Dump Day. I decided to throw out a lot of the clothes I had dressed Kathy in. We had to cut them up the back so that we could put them on her without hurting her. T-shirts, nightgowns, sweatshirts… you name it. The actual hospital Johnnies will be donated to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. They might be useful to someone.

melvilleAfter the dump, I stopped at the Hampden Town Hall to check on another potential room for the memorial. A friend had suggested the Melville Room for the celebration. It’s in the basement of the Town Hall and has a nice commercial kitchen. If nothing else it might be a good place for a local open mic or concert.

I really had grand plans for a Celebration of Life for Kathy. I wanted an exhibit of her art, a service with friends and family and maybe even a concert. But I realized on Saturday that it was too difficult for me to do right now. I was trying to accommodate family personalities, schedules, and cheap air flights. That’s my feeling at the moment anyway. So I called it off just for now.

I picked up a few groceries at Aldis. Kathy and I always went shopping together. When she could no longer walk well enough to come in, she would wait in the car and listen to the radio. While I was bagging my stuff, I glanced out at the car and realized again that she wasn’t there. Other changes: It doesn’t matter how long I take to do stuff, now. Or to run errands. There are no other cars in our driveway. No health aides are waiting for me to get back There are no frantic calls. No more suctioning to clear her airway. While I am out, there is no point in looking at the security camera stream on my phone. After I put away the groceries I unplugged the camera.

I try to clean one area at a time. Pill area. Suction area. I found if I pick up something or read something that makes me sad, I just need to do something else. Somewhere else. I finished the laundry. And started to think about how I would rearrange the living room without a hospital bed. I played guitar for a few minutes and went to bed.

PS. I have started negotiating with the funeral home and they did knock the price down a bit. To be continued…

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