This happens frequently in my line of work. These things tend to come in waves, not just threes.
It is time for some to get on the train.
When we see the signs that the end is coming, we pull the train into the station. It is loaded with ativan, morphine, orders for comfort care, hospice services.
I'm pretty sure it is coming for one of my all time favorites. Al was sad when I told him; he loves her too. We remembered together, ones that are long gone, and he brought up someone that I haven't yet written about.
I met Stella on my very second day as a nurse. I was trying hard not to be overwhelmed by the amount of work and responsibility I'd just jumped into, trying to pretend not to be nervous as I met all these people who would be counting on me to take good care of them.
Stella instantly eased my mind. I instantly liked her as she introduced herself from her bed and declared herself;
"Dignified in Diapers."
She sure was. I knew from her accent she was from the same area in which I grew up. There was a little something extra to her voice, her speech careful and slow, if we were Southern, I'd call it a drawl, but we're not.
She was about as tall as my 5'9", not that I would ever see her standing up straight, as her legs could barely bear her weight to transfer her from bed to chair.
At eighty something, she was still pretty, big blue eyes, aristocratic nose, pure white wavy hair to her shoulders. Everything she wore came from the Coldwater Creek catalog. We'd get excited at each new catalog's arrival; she always picked things that I would have chosen for myself, and promised to will them to me when she croaked.
She was supposed to have done just that, croaked I mean, a year before I met her. Her heart was given less than six months, but decided to keep a beat for much longer.
She was weak, tired most of the time, in pain a lot of the time. The best description I've ever heard of Diabetic Neuropathy was from Stella;
"It feels as if there are a bunch of cute little mice, nibbling on my feet."
It is a good thing that Stella was one of my first, as I learned a valuable lesson about the elderly from her: there may be decades between us, but I can still consider them peers, friends even.
Stella knew she was my friend, and she told me I was her crazy little sister.
She trusted me with secrets, dirty ones. Her devoted son Kurt lived down the road in Stella's former home, with his wife Marie. Marie seemed nice, visited Stella often, brought her treats, took her home for Sunday dinner from time to time.
Stella couldn't stand her. All proper sweetness and light while Marie was in the room, Stella would not hold back as soon as Marie was out the door. We made fun of her hair, her clothes, the stupid little dog she dragged around with her.
We'd laugh our asses off. Stella would pee herself. I'd change her diaper.
Some afternoons, just before I went home, she'd call me to her room, to request I wear her favorite scrub top the next day; the one with Dick And Jane on it.
I bought her Dick And Jane pictures to put on her wall.
She was thrilled for me when I got engaged. I'd dragged Al in to meet her. She loved that we were eloping, and couldn't wait to see pictures.
She promised me she'd make me her famous Better Than Sex Chocolate Cake to celebrate after our wedding. She'd put up with Marie for an afternoon to get it done. She also promised I could have the recipe, but not 'til after she died.
On a Saturday in May, three months before I got married, Stella went on an outing with some other residents, in the big facility van, to a concert on the green. She never went on those outings. I hope she enjoyed the music.
Because she dropped dead in the van on the way back to the nursing home. Really dropped. Almost of her wheelchair. Dead.
I was happy that she'd gone quickly. But selfishly felt jipped that I didn't get to sit by her side, on the train, holding her hand and comforting her while she faded away.
There was a huge turnout for the memorial service the home had for her. Kurt and Marie were there. We hugged and cried and laughed. They gave me back the Dick and Jane pictures.
Marie even made Stella's Better Than Sex Chocolate Cake for the staff. By far the best chocolate cake I've ever had.
Bitch wouldn't give up the recipe.