The phone call had come only a week or so after our last trip to the Manor. That visit had left me heartbroken for the couple that had become increasingly dear to us over the past three years. When we had first met, they were living on the first floor of a home for seniors that allowed them to share a small living room and bedroom. As the husband's dementia worsened, however, he and his wife were moved to a secured area where he could be more closely supervised. A few months later, a serious fall resulted in a hospital stay for him and eventually a transfer for both to the Manor, a full-care nursing home. It had been hard seeing him there, slumped over in his wheelchair and looking so terribly lost, seemingly out of touch with everyone around him, including his wife of so many years. It had left me feeling particularly sad that day.
Larry had taken the call. It was from their daughter. Her dad was failing, she informed him, and was going under hospice care. She thought we'd want to know. A few days later he was gone.
Today we attended the funeral of our friend. His wife sat in a wheel chair in front of the casket that held her mate of sixty-two years. I know that the body lying there was just the shell that had held the soul and spirit of her husband, but somehow it was still comforting to see him as he had been a few years back when we first sat in that tiny living room introducing ourselves. And though it was apparent that the dementia had already begun, we were able to see bits of who he had been.
The last several weeks had not been kind to him, however. His appearance had changed drastically, the sparkle gone altogether from his eyes. But the terrible impersonator who lay in the hospice bed had been far worse, not even remotely resembling the man who had been called by a certain name for eighty plus years. Therefore I was grateful for those who had prepared his body, allowing those who had loved him to remember him at least in this way one last time. His wife spoke softly. "He looks good, doesn't he." I nodded. He did.
It was cold as we stood in the cemetery. A large winter storm was making its way towards us, but grace had been extended. The roads were clear and as yet there was no indication of what was to come a bit later. He had been a military man. Those there to honor him fired their guns, the bugle sang its song and the flag that had draped the coffin was quietly and reverently folded and handed to the one who had loved him the longest.
We shall continue to visit the Manor. There is a lovely woman who lives there with curly silver hair and a face that lights up whenever someone comes to pass a little time with her. It will be strange at first not to see the both of them, they were together such a very long time. A long, long time.