And then the radio silence ended…
I’ve struggled to find the right words that describe the last several months for those of us at Pug Hollow. Weird is the first to come to mind (coupled with a variety of adjectives), but it’s been much more than that. We could easily include eventful, exhausting, frustrating, hectic, chaotic, refreshing and memory-making in the list. There’s much more to share than one post can contain, so I’ll break it up over the coming days.
Earlier this week, we laid to rest Betty Just – Cathy’s mom. She was 83. It’s been a long, difficult road for everyone involved, but especially for Betty and her daughters. The ravages of COPD exacted their toll in what seemed to be one-inch increments. Amazingly, she was able to stay at home until only two months ago, when it was no longer safe for her to be there. The last few months were spent in home hospice care at Cathy’s sister Cindy’s house. When she passed, it was with Cathy and Cindy at her side – the way all three of them hoped it would be.
As my friend and former collegiate offensive lineman Jim said, “she’s the only 75-pound lady that could scare the bejesus out of me with just a look.” Everyone in the family got the opportunity to experience that at some point. My turn came when all I tried to do was arrange for regular pest control for their house – and when she found out how much it was going to cost, that 4’10” lady (she was taller in those days) stood toe-to-toe with me, jabbing her finger into my chest, all the while looking up at me and telling me that there was no way in hell she or anyone was going to pay that. (It should be noted that Cathy’s dad sat in his chair and laughed during the entire episode.) She made it quite clear how things were going to run in her house.
It can never be said that she didn’t raise daughters that were equally tough – they just didn’t know how tough until recently. She was able to stay at home for as long as she did because of the girls’ never-ending pharmacy, grocery, doctor and hair appointment runs. Home hospice was a bold and heroic step, particularly for Cindy. Most people can’t do it. Hospice professionals often discourage it, because of the toll it can take. Quite frankly, I don’t know that I could have done what she did. Assuming the role of round-the-clock caregiver takes extreme commitment, extreme patience and the ability to run on close to zero sleep. Cathy provided as much help as she could, quite often being at home only long enough to grab some clothes to head to her sister’s to provide a relief shift. I know heroic seems like a strong word for their efforts, but what they have done for their mother over the last several years was nothing short of it. I mean that.
Her grandchildren were the highlights of her life – and made her smile into her final days. Cathy and I both believe that Nicholas gave her years she otherwise would not have had. We’re glad, for both of them, that the opportunity to bring each other happiness was there.
Betty’s passing was the culmination of 15 years (my best guess) of declining health; she’s finally at rest, no longer struggling to breathe, and no longer angered by the fact that she was being challenged to do so. She’s with Bob again, who she’s missed terribly these last seven years. The best I can figure is that his first words to her upon arrival were “what’s for supper?” – and she’d have it no other way.
Rest in peace, Betty. And don’t worry about your girls, they’re going to be just fine. That’s the way you raised them.