August 5, 2012
Alice heard this news on Friday at noon. Two hours later she had what she calls an “episode,” which means she becomes dizzy, feels weak, experiences heat and tingling in her arms and legs, and her systolic blood pressure shoots up, usually over 200. She started having these episodes after Celia suffered a bad fall and left The Place for a nursing home several weeks ago.
Alice’s doctor is working on what these events mean medically, but there is the physical meaning and then there are other meanings – perhaps a deep weariness of losses, so many in almost 97 years, and now this loss, too.
Alice was told that late on Thursday night Celia held the hand of a granddaughter, squeezed it a few seconds, said good-bye, and closed her eyes.
“How like her,” Alice said, meaning the kindness of that squeeze, the politeness and solace of that last good-bye. And then she added about her friend who suffered from congestive heart failure and whose body was overtaken every day by violent storms of coughs and gasps for air, “At least she’s not coughing any more.”
I remembered Celia’s brief note to Alice one day a couple of months ago: “Don’t you just want to scream sometimes?”
The funeral is to be held far away on the Oregon coast, so Alice can’t attend, but we’ll have our own way of remembering Celia. I found her obituary and lots of photographs of her online, so we can look at those together on my iPad. Celia lived nine decades (and then some) without Alice, so the photographs will provide images for some of the life stories she shared.
Alice and Celia experienced the same nearly-100 years. They were girls at the same time – women, mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great grandmothers. They discovered each other not a moment too soon. They got the giggles together. What’s better than a friend you can laugh at this absurd world with? What’s better than someone who tells you she wants to scream at the limits a long, long life has brought, and she knows you want to scream sometimes too?
To protect privacy, I never use real names (other than family names) in this blog, and it was only the other day that I realized that the name I’d chosen for Alice’s best friend at The Place is actually an anagram of the name Alice. That trick of the unconscious fits their connection perfectly. They saw themselves in one another and loved each other from the start. (See Whatever Libby Wants – Update.)
But I just want to tell you that this woman’s real name was the same as Alice’s mother’s middle name, and every day for a year and three months, she brought Alice the comfort of a mother, a sister, a perfect friend.
Each that we lose takes part of us
Each that we lose takes part of us;
A crescent still abides,
Which like the moon, some turbid night,
Is summoned by the tides.
- Emily Dickinson