My sister, Kathy, taught me to "find the funny" in life. Back in the day, we laughed with each other and at each other until we were breathless with tears streaming down our faces. It was the kind of laughter that tends to continue to bubble up throughout the day triggered by simple eye contact. My sister, Kathy, reigned supreme in the fine art of comedy. The simple lift of one of her wispy blonde eyebrows coupled with a quick, guiding cut of her eyes could signal a minor game-changing detail during a rather mundane situation that would propel the moment to Carol Burnett/Tim Conway level hilarity. It may have been a tail of toilet paper streaming behind a choir member marching into the church service to the tune of "Onward Christian Soldiers" or the two mismatched earrings hanging from the ears of a grocery store checker. Humor was our currency, and we were rolling in it.
I miss Kathy. I miss our irreverent humor and guffaws of laughter. I miss laughing until my belly aches. And, this week, I miss her even more than usual.
Hospice has determined that Meems has begun "transitioning." Transitioning is the end of life process that has its own set of symptoms. It's a code word for "say your goodbyes" and "do all the things." So, that is what I've been doing over the past several days. Transitioning with Meems.
My average days go like this. Meems' feet and hands get "really cold" and purple. My heart pangs and tears gather in my eyes. Later that day, her hands and feet warm up and pink up. I breathe a sigh of relief. Up and down. Up and down. On Monday, she experienced periods of apnea. She breathed in light pants and would then go for up to thirty seconds without breathing at all. I sat with my hand on her chest most of the afternoon wondering if one of those breaths would be her last. "Oh, wait! There's another breath! She's still here." Up and down. Up and down.
Alan and I have been counseled by the Hospice nurse that Mom may need to hear me say things like "We're going to be OK" when she goes and "It's OK" for her to go. Alan and I have both whispered reassurances into her little ears. I have smothered her with hugs and kisses and showered her with "I love yous." We've also been told that she may not leave while I'm in the room with her. Meems well knows my tender heart. I take breaks during the day and sleep at home every night. We've been advised that she could be in this transition stage for days...weeks...even months. So, I wait with her.
When her eyes are open, they stare blankly at nothing. With coaxing, she can sip on Milk Chocolate Ensure and swallow tiny bites of vanilla pudding. She struggles to mumble simple words like "yes" and "no." Every now and then, if I ask for one of her sweet smiles, she will slightly open her mouth and somehow flex her cheek muscles. Yesterday, as I was leaving she slowly, hoarsely sounded out, "I-I-I-I-I-I...luuuuh...oooo." Then, it was I who did not breathe for thirty seconds as I wrapped my heart around the gift of those words.
If Kathy could be here to wait with me, we would lie on the bed with Mom and promise her that we'd behave at her celebration service. "We will try our best not to get tickled thinking about that time you went to that funeral with Jimmy and Ruby, and Jimmy accidentally told the usher that y'all wanted to sit on the bride's side." Kathy and I would make up funny "transition guidelines" like "she won't go until Willard Scott shows her picture on a Smucker's jar" and "until she holds the world's record for being the oldest human with all of her original teeth." Mom is kind of competitive like that. We would watch low budget Lifetime movies like "Psycho Granny" (not even kidding) on Mom's tiny TV making snide remarks like, "RUN! RUN! Granny's got a butter knife, and she knows how to use it!"
We would laugh until we cried. Then, we would cry until we laughed.
God has padded this path with loving family and friends. My phone dings with texted emojis throughout the day - hearts, kisses, tears, praying hands. Homemade chocolate chip cookies and a small arrangement of sunflowers have appeared at my door. People are so good.
I know that you are with me in spirit. I'll keep you posted. If you'd like to comment on this blog post on Facebook or whatever, simply post a humorous GIF or meme to remind me to find the funny every single day because this transition thing could take a while. Dig deep, Cousin Sherry. Troll the world wide web for yet unseen videos of people falling on ice. Your irreverent humor is quite impressive.
As Mom's BFF, Leonard, would say - God loves you, and so do I.