Most all of us seniors at one point find ourselves thinking, “This must he what they mean by the Golden Years.” And then, without warning, something tragic happens. I mean something really tragic…like losing your favorite pet friend who had been with you for 14 years. The sorrow I felt was incomparable, except for the loss of my wife 14 years earlier. She was deathly ill when I brought little Harry home shortly before her demise and took him to the ICU unit where she was and, against all rules, I hid little Harry in a fake camera bag, with rolls of film attached to it to be more convincing. When I got to her room, I set him on the foot of her bed, opened up the zipper and out popped Harry’s little head.
That was it; she loved him at first sight. (And I was worried she maybe wouldn’t like the idea of another pet…wrong, wrong, wrong!) She passed away not too long after that, but in the interim, she had the most loving pet with her to the end.
Now, 14 years later, little Harry passed away a few short weeks ago. He was the consoling, warm factor in my otherwise emotionally bereft existence, and he was the light of my life (as vapid as that may sound to non-pet owning people). We held a memorial for him, and I was pleasantly surprised at how many friends of his and mine showed up for that event.
Concurrent to that tragedy was another one building to a crescendo, that being my best friend of 54 years, whose health was failing him day by day, hour by hour. Dementia had set in, and he could not remember more and more things, like taking his pills, letting his precious dog out, knowing what day of the week it was, then what month it was. I took him to every function I could to keep his mind occupied and stimulated, and it helped him to get by his difficult periods of having too much time on his hands.
Then nothing seemed to stimulate him, and we decided because of his fainting spells to admit him to the hospital for examination. He was there a week, and they sent him home with no diagnosis and a hearty fare-thee-well. It was the end of their interest in him. He was in affect a “goner” or beyond any further treatment in a hospital situation. That decision meant he somehow had to make it on his own, in his own home. After several days of struggle, it became clear that he had to be moved to a hospice, and I called for an ambulance. We moved him to Hanson Hospice Center in Stevensville, where for eight weeks he fought the battle for survival while in a quandary for why he was there. He would ask daily “Why am I here?” It was to me that he would ask this question for the most part, and it was me that had to lie to my oldest friend on the planet. I would tell him he was there “so he could build up his strength in order to go home again.” I took his precious Labrador to visit him daily and tried to keep up the pretense of normalcy as much as was possible by taking him McDonald’s, reading him papers or watching TV, but mostly, just talking to him and listening to his sadly warped mind discuss bizarre trips he thought he had made and things he had done. Finally, after several days of being comatose, he gave up the struggle and crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
You don’t come out of those scenes emotionally unscathed. You do what you know to do, in spite of the challenges. You support the lifeless figure you once knew as vibrant, strong, and relevant. You do what caring humans do for each other, in spite of the hopelessness of it all, because you are convinced in a part of your mind that they do know you are there and they do hear you speak to them, no matter how hopeless the message.
You have heard us speak of Charlie Moore before, and you know we had a beautiful celebration of his life at the Converge Community Church last Saturday. Guests were treated to a magnificent buffet of hors d’ oeuvres, desserts, wine cocktails and a stellar line up of vocalists accompanied by the revered David Lahm of NYC, six eulogies by his nieces and nephew, Reverend Dave Evans (a cousin of Charlie’s) and Reverend Jeff Dryden both spoke about the young Charlie and the old Charlie.
Lastly, I spoke of the Charlie I knew for 54 years and the things we had done, the places we had travelled to and the often hysterical situations we found ourselves in. It was not the eulogy I wrote, but rather it was my birthday letter to him about all the time we had spent together, and how I hoped I was the brother he never had, ending with telling him that I loved him. He was the man of the hour, the week, the month, and for all time.
If I had but one wish, I would return for just a minute to those days before…