Thursday, October 13, 2011

St. Jameson; Patron Saint Of Ann Maries Everywhere.

Bea came to us four years ago.  A frail wisp of a thing with a silly tuft of white frizz atop her head, a beakish nose, and very large eyes that didn't point in the same direction.

Pretty cute if one is inclined to find 90 year old ladies cute.  I am so inclined.

I told her straight away how much I loved her name. So much so that I had a wee Bea of my own. She was tickled to hear it and looked forward to meeting the baby with her name.

With Bea that day was a younger woman of  around 70, whom I assumed to be Bea's daughter;

"No. My husband and I wanted children. But they never came."

They never came.

I tend not to indulge in pity for a person's circumstances, but I always feel a pang of something when I meet an ancient to whom children never came.

The woman was Bea's youngest sister Eileen. Of eight children, Eileen was the baby, Bea an elder. When their mother passed away, Eileen was very young, and most of her mothering was left to Bea.

Children hadn't come to Eileen either. She visited her older Sister Mommy often and obviously adored her.

Another frequent visitor was the sisters' niece Ann Marie.

As much as the sisters were meek and mild and frail, Ann Marie was strong and bold and fierce.  Some considered her quite the bitch.

They were correct.

She was my kind of bitch.

She demanded that Bea always look nice; hair done, outfits clean and matching.  She made sure that Bea attended activities and socialized.  She was on top of every medical issue that arose.

She did everything that a devoted daughter would have done for her beloved mother.

So when Bea began to fret, anxiously asking the walls;

"What am I going to do? Oh no. I don't know what to do. What am I going to do?"  

every afternoon, for no apparent reason; Ann Marie sought relief for her Aunt.

The psychiatrist was called in. Medication was prescribed. Bea was snowed. Ann Marie stepped in.

The nurse pyschologist gave it a try. A new medication tried. A mostly sleeping Bea resulted. Ann Marie was displeased.

Ann Marie had an idea; if the doctor was willing to give an order for a daily dose:



Whisky and Water, served up in a blue plastic cup, was delivered to Bea each evening after supper.

She relaxed. She smiled. She giggled.

She learned which nurses made the best bartenders, and would seek me out for her Whiskey drink, placing her order before supper was served.

For two years the Whiskey kept Bea mostly happy, which made Ann Marie mostly happy.

On a Tuesday, Bea wasn't feeling well. Ann Marie approached me crying;

"She says she's dying. She wants all her sisters to come. Is she dying? Do you think she's dying?"

"No. I don't think she's dying. But if she thinks she is; believe her. Bring in the sisters."

By Saturday, Bea lay in bed, surrounded by sisters - dying.

Withered frames and faces, silly white tufts, sharp noses, big eyes; all echoes of the oldest sister.

After the goodbyes, I promised Ann Marie and Eileen that Bea wouldn't be alone. I wrapped up my shift, leaving myself an hour to sit.

Is a lovely thing, to sit in silence beside a flickering life.

Dying people are my favorite. That doesn't sound wrong in my head. Their needs as simple as a bottle of morphine and fellow human to see them off.

She left a few minutes after I put my forehead against hers and told her she was loved.

The following Wednesday, coworker Tracey and I crashed Bea's wake.  Hugged all the sisters.  Made Ann Marie cry.

We made a stop on the way home. A dark dive of a place.  Pulled up a couple stools.

"What'll it be ladies?"

"Two shots of Jameson."

"To Bea."

"To Bea!"

"And to Ann Maries everywhere!"



  1. I hope you know that they are so lucky to have you :)

    Bea sounds like my kind of gal - as does Ann Marie!

  2. I loved this post! I also love that you appreciate the person who is about to pass from this life. I think there is something very intimate about that time. Thank you for doing that...

  3. We all need an Ann Marie in our lives--especially at the end. I'll raise my glass to her, to Bea and to you. Slainte!

  4. To the Beas and the Ann Maries and the Tulpen's everywhere. May we all be so blessed as to have people like you in our lives.

  5. Ah Jamesons, my favorite drink.

    I know I've said it before, but damn do I love your stories. You make me feel better about aging, death and all the middle.

    Cheers to your ladies

  6. When I am old and grey, and probably a whole lot crankier than Ann Marie, I can only hope there will be someone like you taking care of me.

    And as long as the dead and dying people aren't talking to you and keeping you up all hours of the night I think it's OK to like dying people over the living....something tells me they are a whole lot nicer than the run of the mill snark I deal with on a daily basis.

  7. How beautiful - and what a wonderful niece.
    I am coming up to the one year anniversary of my grandfather's death, and it's hard to believe they are gone - but also so comforting to know they are no longer suffering - tho on days like today, when a new great-grandchild is added to the mix, it makes my heart pang that he's not here to see it.

  8. what a wonderful story! I hope when I am in Bea's situation I have an Ann Marie and a nurse like you by my side.

  9. Your perspective is a beautiful (rare) thing. Raising a glass to you and to all Bea's and Ann Marie's the whole world over.

  10. You understand things that not many people do.
    You understand that death is not scary, it is a process and a right of passage.
    That people are "bitchy" because they are frightened.
    That compassion is sometimes the only medicine one needs.

  11. Smiling through my tears....

    Since I'm pretty sure I'll end up in a nursing home, I hope someone like you works there.

  12. I think it's a Bitch thing. I've met people who others have warned me were a bitch, and found them to be perfectly charming. I like bitches, and I am a bitch. We bitches gotta stick together.
    I share your passion for the old peeps. My newest client is 93. I love her so much I would gladly spend all day with her with no pay, but don't tell my boss because my kids like to eat.

  13. That was the smooshiest.
    A-boy and I had a conversation the other day concerning who would take care of me when I'm an old lady (not sure how we got to that topic.) Even though he says he will, he thinks he'll have youngest sister (of ours) and YOUR Bea help him take care of me. Who the eff knows what you'll be doing then, but he isn't going to ask you to help, apparently. Prolly thinks you've done enough.
    Shots all around. xoxoxo

  14. I just found your blog a few days ago, and am blown away by your beautiful words. Thank you for sharing Bea with us.

  15. Aw, Jeez. Very lovely tribute to Bea. You give such comfort and love to those around you.

    You are definitely earning your karma points!

  16. I'm not surprised, in the least, to read that you were the bartender sought out.

    I have so much love for you & the work you do . . . it makes me really, really happy to know that some people, at the end of their journey, have you to help them.

  17. More doctors need to consider that a mild treatment for anxiety.

    To Beas everywhere.

  18. To Beas.

    To bitches.

    To bartenders.

    (In my head, that sounds perfect.)

  19. Unbelievable. I just visited my grandmother, who is in a home in Chicago. Haven't seen her in six years. But my aunt is her Ann-Marie, and for that, I smile and raise my glass.

  20. One of my nursing instructors told us that to be with someone while they're dying - really *be* with, and care for someone while they're dying - is where the true art of nursing comes in. She also said that just while almost anyone can master the science of nursing, not everyone is capable of the art or nursing. It can't really be learned; it's either a part of someone or it's not.

    You've obviously got it.

  21. Julie summed it up perfectly. You wrote it perfectly.

  22. I love reading about your kind of bitches!!

  23. Seriously. You need to stop making me cry when I'm at work.

    Bless you for being there.

  24. Mama Badger stole my toast. I better go pour another round.

  25. I wish you worked where my mom is. But it is not a hospice, but an assisted living space.

    I love your stories.

    But you knew that.

  26. When my mother starts dying (ptui, ptui, ptui, spitting over left shoulder) can I import you here to NYC? She's been in the hospital for nearly a week now, and would have been home Wednesday if the hospital hadn't tried to hard kill her Tuesday night. Luckily, haven't succeeded (yet). I gotta get her out of there soon.

    Oh, and this is lovely. But you knew that.

  27. God bless nurses like you.

    I've had them, so I can say that.

  28. I HAVE to stop reading your posts on my iphone. I admit I shut it down, tears everywhere, then came back while I was at home, ALONE. But then I chickened out and just left a comment. The sister hood is what got me. You have a beautiful job. And I need to know where you work. It better be close, b/c I have family and they're going to need care.

  29. Really beautifully written. My heart just melts at stories like this. God bless the doctor that approved that. And those of you that facilitated it. And, really, you, for being with her.

  30. I always thought my Great Granpa would've had a much happier ending if he'd been given a brownie every day (if you know what I mean). Though a daily dose of you might've done him just as good.

  31. This is the best thing I've read in days.

  32. OMG!!! I love you!! And Bea!! And Anne Marie!! Def my kind of bitch too!! I'm so humbled every time I read your blog, I love coming here. You have an amazing heart and life-view. I love it!

  33. They say GER & RISA have AK's NC and that ROD is into it too with CRUISE ?
    Are you joking?
    Why don't your blogs say exactly what's going on?

  34. Tulpen, you move me with your words. You sure do.

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  36. just read this now- great story- My grandmother died a few weeks ago- her AM was my aunt D- glad she was there-

  37. I truly hope with all that I am that when it's my time to go that there is some creepy girl there to tell me I am loved before I cross over.

  38. It is a beautiful thing you do. Seeing them off and loving them, and of course making your readers cry.

  39. That's the best thing I've read in ages. Tears in my eyes and a real affection for someone I've never met. You are a wonderful writer with such a talent for bringing the people in your life to brilliant life. Wow. This was gorgeous.
    To Bea!


Use Your Words.