A sad update . . .

First, thanks to all of you for your patience and support during the past few months. I’m still way behind on responding to comments, so I appreciate that so many of you are still dropping in . . .

As those of you with experience with people affected by dementia will know, moving from a familiar home is extremely difficult for them. It has been hard for my Aunty, in spite of my efforts to create at least some continuity.

We moved to the new place two weeks ago today (Monday the 13th of April) and yesterday my Aunty simply let go and left us at 1.00 pm. I’d been sitting with her on the couch, holding her hand. I got up to move a couple of things in preparation for my Mum’s planned visit in the afternoon. I was up less than ten minutes, then sat down with her again. At that time, or just before, she went home. Just the day before, she had told me she was frightened, but couldn’t articulate the cause. I asked her if she was afraid of dying and asked if she knew what happens when we die. She said, “what?”, so I reminded het that we are met by those who love us and added that her Mother and Dad would probably be among them. She was calmer after that. She was only 10 when her mother died and that loss affected her and her siblings all their lives. I like to picture her ‘home’ again with them and all the others who have gone on ahead.

My Aunty reminded me of a Bantam rooster; she was tiny, not even five feet tall. But feisty enough for ten average people! I have inherited some of the same spirit, in a much more subdued fashion, so we had our clashes. But she always reminded me that she loved me and that she appreciated my being here and willing to help. And she knew I loved her, too. I’m so glad I didn’t leave that unsaid.

Those of you who have followed the Random Harvest for a while may remember my photos of my Aunty, happy to model a shawl or hold up an afghan for me. I miss her already, even though I had no wish to hold her back.

My mother has moved here now, so starting today we will continue unpacking and getting settled. It’s good to be with her again.

By the time Mum arrived yesterday, I had taken care of my Aunty’s body and she looked so peaceful, lying in her bed wearing a lovely pink blouse and powder blue skirt suit. She had made her clothes a while ago, as usual. She had a hard time finding anything suitabke that fit her. She became a fantastic seamstress as a result and when she was young turned many a head.

She learned to knit from her Mother and maternal Grandmother, both born in Norway. When my Aunty was young, all the socks, mittens, scarves, tuques, etc. were made by the women and girls in the fsmily. The men in my Great-Grandmother’s family had been fishermen. Away for weeks, sometimes months, at sea, they passed their evenings knitting socks, etc. for themselves. My oldest uncle, born in 1912 (the year the Titanic went down), learned to knit his own socks, too. Their Grandmother or Mother would start the cuff and the child would knit until it was time to turn the heel or make the thumb. The adult would do that, then the child would continue until it was time to decrease abd finish off, which the adult would do. After a while, the child learned to do it all, start to finish. My Grandmother crocheted, too, but my Aunty never did. She didn’t take well to her oldest sister trying to teach her after their Mother was gone. Older sibs (like me πŸ˜‰ ) can be quite bossy!

Like my Mum, my Aunty learned to do Artex painting, a form of liquid embroidery. Living in separate provinces, both taught classes and made a bit of pin money selling supplies. A couple of years ago, my Aunty gave me her large container of Artex paints and all the pictures she had created. She sold some of her work, too. She was especially proud of one set of pillowcases she decorated; instead of ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ on them, as was common in those days, hers said, ‘Mine’ and ‘Yours’! She sold several sets of those . . .

As a girl, before the War, she had a penpal in India. The women in that girl’s family crocheted doilies to support the family. They would send a package to my Aunty, who would sell them, then send a money order back to India. She told me about tgat family so many times. She lost touch with them once the War broke out, followed by the Revolution, then Partition. My Aunty always wondered if they received the last money order she sent; it wasn’t acknowledged as usual and she never heard from them again.

After their mother died, my Grandfather kept the family together on the farm. The oldest son stsyed home for years to help with the farming (mostly wheat for income and hens, cows and pigs, plus two gardens just to feed the famkly, with extra butter and eggs being traded at the general store or given to family and friends. The ‘Dirty Thirties’ were very hard years if you lived in southern Saskatchewan. The nine remaining children ranged from nearly three to twenty years of age. The second son left home early and it wasn’t long before the oldest sister married and went to live with her husband’s family on their farm. So the housework, cooking, baking, laundry (by hand in a washtub) was split up by the three girls who were lmd enough: my Aunty, another Aunt and my Mum. Baking was not only all the bread for ten people, but also cookies, cakes, pies, loaves, etc.

My Aunty was too small to knead the bread well, but she baked many of the desserts. The other two girls did most of the laundry, although she helped, and she did all the mending, socks and clothing. It was a hard life for youngsters, but it formed them into strong, resilient, creative women and men. This why I feel so strongly that they deserve lovibg care in their final years.

I could say so much more, but I’ll save some for another day.

I’m doing ok, if you are wondering, but these next days will be busy as Mum and I settle in here. I hope to have a computer set up later this week.

I nearly forgot to tell you of the additional craziness yesterday . . . Shortly after my Aunty died, I had a phone call from the new caretakers in our old building. They live in Mum’s old suite. There was water pouring out of my Aunty’s old place, her son was still in Fort MacMurray and no-one had a key! In the end, they got a locksmith to open the door and then spent several hours vacuuming up over an inch of water (not much in the living room; mostly in the bedrooms and storage room. It was ‘dirty’ water from a burst drainpipe serving the kitchen sinks. The water backed up through my Aunty’s sonk, then spread across the floor. The caretakers drove here just before midnight to collect a key so they could let in the workmen today. I wad SO glad Aunty and I were not there; or, even worse, that she was there alone.

A lot for my cousins to deal with this week, for sure.

Have a great week, everyone; I’ll be back on a regular basis soon.

Sorry there are no photos; for some reason, my phone isn’t allowibg that today . . .

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26 thoughts on “A sad update . . .

    • Thank you, Patti. She was very impressive; a large soul in a small body. Yes, we are settling in, with a few bumps and lumps along the way; All the women in our family are strong, opinionated and generally feisty, so it will never be completely easy . . . but it will always be worth the journey. I’ve been very lucky to be called to this sort of service; which turns out to be more for my own growth and good than for anyone else’s. Isn’t that always the way, though? Bless you. ~ Linne

  1. So sorry for your loss of a sweet but feisty Aunty. Her life was certainly full of interesting events and you were so good to her, too. I bet you were glad you took this special last days or months with her. Big hugs sent your way, my dear.

    • Thanks so much. I wish there was space to tell her whole life story; she faced many hardships, but never gave up. I always felt she deserved to be loved and cared for at the end of a long, eventful life. And, really, it was more of a blessing to me than to her, in the end. I am indeed glad to have had the time with her. Some of my Aunts and Uncles I never had much time with and wish I’d had that. So I was very lucky here. Thanks for the hugs. I’m sending some back to you, too. ~ Linne

  2. Sorry to hear of your aunty passing Linne. Dementia is a cruel disease and it is best she is now “home”. Lovely words and memories, thanks for sharing it with us. x Hugs

    • Thanks, Kym. It is cruel, isn’t it? I think the hardest part is that the person is aware they are ‘slipping’ but there is nothing to be done. And I agree, it’s best she has gone ‘home’. I wouldn’t wish more suffering on anyone, even though I miss her daily. Hugs to you, too. Hope you are warm. ~ Linne

  3. I’ve been away a bit and so sorry to hear about your aunty. They never really leave us and we never stop missing them. You wrote such a beautiful story of her life and the family. I loved reading every word. Thank you for sharing it all.

    • You are so right; she is a part of me forever. Thanks for taking the time to read her story. With 95 years to choose from, it might have been longer . . . She lived through some interesting times, didn’t she? And what a strong character! I’m glad I had so much time with her; we aren’t always so lucky.

      • 95 years is a very long time. I bet you could write a whole book on your experience with her and your mom and what they taught you. My mother didn’t make it to 75 but I am still affected by my experience and memories of her.

      • Marlene, my Dad was just 75 when he passed away. All his family is now gone, although on Mum’s side there is still a sister and a brother. It’s hard to see a big family shrink like that.

        Yes, I learned much from both of them; personally and from their stories.

        I don’t think we are ever unaffected by the loss of a parent, even when a relationship has had its challenges. My Dad passed away in ’99 and I still miss him; I was watching a US movie called ‘Fury’ the other day. It’s fictional, but about a tank crew in Europe during WWII. My Dad drove a tank and the movie brought him, as a very young man/boy so close to me; it was hard not to cry at some bits. He went through all that while legally not yet a ‘man’, arriving back in Canada on his 21st birthday. I lived far from my parents for most of my adult years, but was blessed to have four months with my Dad at the end. And now these years with my Mum and my Aunty. Honestly, it’s more of a blessing to me than to them.

        Hugs to you, Marlene. I think of you often. ~ Linne

    • Thanks, Cathy. Love is forever; to me it’s not the Hallmark sentimentality, it’s how we behave towards others. I’ve learned that it’s possible to dislike someone, yet still be loving in our actions. Not that I’ve mastered that one! And it’s definitely easier with those we like.

      The new place has pretty colours and is youthfully fashionable. The best thing is a tub deep enough for a proper bath; not quite the old clawfoot tub I loved, but way better than the shallow tubs in the old building. And facing North means sunlight early and late for a few months, but not having to draw the blinds through the summer months. πŸ™‚

      We will find peace here, I’m sure.

      • Well, I’ve taken so long in responding, Cathy, that we are now pretty much past the ‘signs of spring’, which for me mostly consisted of the blossoming of the lovely tree outside our glass doors. I love sitting and crocheting, tv on, but not always watched, and looking up to see the branches moving in the wind or hearing birds calling. Today it was crows, one of my favourite birds.
        Stay warm; spring is on its way to you, I know it. Just maybe not for a few weeks yet. Hope your winter is an easy one. Hugs to you. ~ Linne

  4. Linne, I am so sorry to hear about your Aunts passing.. you have my sincere condolences.. The picture to have painted of your aunt is a lovely tribute to a wonderful soul.. I know you will retain your fond memories of your dear Aunt and your tribute to her here is heartfelt..

    Love and sending my thoughts your way.. Sue x

    • Thanks, Sue. She was a lovely, complex person; like all of us, I suppose. I wish we’d had more time together before she began to fail, but I still had more than I did with other, also loved, aunts and uncles. I’m very grateful for what I did have.

  5. Your aunt was blessed to have you with her as she passed. Death is not an ending as you know and she is at one with spirit now. You have written a beautiful eulogy for her and for your mum too really – remembering who they were and the lives they lived keeps their spirits alive in all of us. It is a wonderful way to honour the people who influenced you so deeply. You have been in my thoughts! xoxo

    • Thank you, Pauline. I feel it was a blessing all ’round. Caring for someone with dementia can be a good exercise in patience, empathy and compassion. Not always easy, by any means, but always wirthwhile. We were lucky, too, that she had an easier form of dementia. For some, staying at home is not an option, and often safety is an issue. I’ve seen cases where an institution for the person affected was the best for everyone.

      Yes, it’s definitely easier when we understand that the body is like a snail’s shell; once outgrown, it’s discarded, but the snail goes on … I was fortunate to learn that when I was young; knowing that life does not end has gotten me through some challenging times. It also makes it easier to let someone go when they are done here. My thanks to you, and all my readers, for all the thoughts, prayers and energy coming our way.

  6. So sorry about your aunty Linne :(. I am so glad that she had you with her in her final years and to care for her just before and after her death. This post is a study in how life goes on, no matter what happens and your resiliance comes, in no small part, thanks to having spent time with your aunty. BIG hugs in this sad time. XXXOOOXXX

    • Thanks, Narfie. It was a good thing for all of us and a privilege for me. These days we seem to hide all the important events of life, but I’m pretty old world, in spite of being a rather rabid old hippie ;-). Family care isn’t for everyone, but definitely suits me. I have gained so much more than I have given; I’m very fortunate. Thanks for the hugs and all the support. I’m sending warm hugs back . . .

      • Thank you, Narfie. It’s true; no matter how ‘down’ I get (and I can get pretty down at times) somehow I still know in my centre that there is light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t only a train. πŸ™‚ Love and hugs, Narfie. ~ Linne

  7. Linne, I am so sorry for your loss, your aunty was a special person in all she did and passed on. I am sure the family helped have spread their memories of her justvas you have done today and inspired to help when they could. I’m glad your mother is with you so you aren’t alone and the two of you can reminisce about your aunty.

    • Lois, thank you and my apologies for taking so long to respond. My Aunty was very special to me and some of my family, for sure. It’s been hard on my Mum, I think, but not something she would ever discuss with one of her kids (me). Mum is now the eldest survivor of ten siblings. Her younger sister will be coming in a few weeks for the memorial; she and my RN sister will fly up together and then stay here with us, which will give her time with Mum on their own. I’m hoping that will help. We do talk about my Aunty and recall the stories of her life and that means a lot to me. Thanks again, Lois, and hugs to you. ~ Linne

    • Thanks, Wendy; I appreciated the email. Yes, that generation grew up in pretty hard times; like their parents before them. There were some downsides, I think, but also some benefits. They all grew up strong, resourceful survivors with many skills. I was lucky to have a similar upbringing and did my best to give the same to my sons when I could.

      Hope you are staying warm through these months. It’s cool and cloudy today and feels more like early spring or late autumn back on the West Coast. Very nice.

      Hugs to you and Roger. ~ Linne

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I look forward to reading your comments. ~ Linne

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