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Mom died a few days ago. If there is such a thing as a good death, then I suppose she had one; her family was with her at the end and she seemed at peace. For this I am grateful; but this is gratitude of the amorphous variety.
The long road to her last breath was not easy. I don't suppose it ever is, but it would have been much harder had it not been for the decency and kindness of many people along the way.
For this I am grateful, and this gratitude is specific and concrete.
I am grateful for her physician, Dr. Thomas Janus of Rappahannock Family Physicians. He and his staff, particularly Sherry, very competently looked after mom's health for many years.
What really sticks with me, though, is the way Dr. Janus would direct his questions to her, not to me (though that would have been faster and more efficient). He maintained eye contact and waited patiently for her to find her words.
Age can and does take most things from us; it need not take our dignity.
I am grateful for Shannon, Mae and Betty of Comfort Keepers Fredericksburg. Hired to "do" for mom while she lived with my wife and me, they arrived as strangers, but people with hearts as big as these do not remain strangers. They became and remain family.
I am grateful for Bowling Green Health and Rehabilitation Center, where mom went when the risks associated with caring for her in our home became unacceptable.
Nursing homes have grim reputations. These places are, after all, where the end game is played out, and ours is a culture that shrinks from such things.
Bowling Green is not grim. True, it is bright and spotless, but these qualities are not what makes it shine. From administrators through medical and support staff, the people are, well English fails us here, only Yiddish will do: the people are mensches.
When our time comes, and it will, I hope my wife and I find a haven as competent and welcoming. I am grateful most of all for my wife, Linda, my partner and my strength. Together, we looked after our parents for many years. Together, we stayed in the line. We are deep, bone tired. Together we can rest. For a while.