So now that I have the details, this is how it went down. Evidently Mom had been feeling under the weather a day or to before, but when Elaine texted her on the morning of the 15th, she said she was feeling great, was planning on going for a walk, doing some chores and calling her cable company. She was on the phone to Verizon and the rep asked her to go turn on the TV which was in the basement. She got to the bottom of the stairs, sat down, said, "Let me catch my breath," and he heard her drop the phone. Verizon immediately put in a 911 call when she didn't answer the guy, and Emergency Services broke a window to unlock the front door and go find her. Annapolis PD called my sister Elaine immediately and she went straight over to the house. She called Miriam and me (I took the call at about 7:30 PDT, so it was 10:30 AM their time.)
I flew out on Thursday, with the shortest connection ever through San Diego - couldn't get the one daily nonstop on such short notice, and didn't get in until 9:30 PM.
Elaine and I went over to the house on Friday after breakfast. I went through Mom's jewelry, feeling like a housebreaker, but honestly, she's been giving me bits of her stuff for years because of the three of us, I'm the only one who is really into vintage jewelry. And I could hear her saying, "Don't be silly, pick what you like and enjoy it!" Elaine insisted I take her wedding ring. I took all the nursing bits: a hat pin you could kill a man with or skewer a starchy cap to your coiffure with, cufflinks, graduation ring, pins. A Mexican silver pendant with some semiprecious stones. One of several strings of pearls - I suspect the others belonged to Grandma McGee, Aunt Pat and maybe Aunt Anne or Aunt Floss. A pair of blue enamel earrings I remember from when I was very small. And a "War Is Unhealthy For Children And Other Living Things" pendant. I need to find a chain for that and wear it this weekend.
Sitting on the sofa facing her deck, it was an explosion of flowers and potted plants, overlooking the lush August green of her yard, complete with birdhouses and a St. Francis statue. In the basement studio where they found her, two easels had works in progress. That house in Heritage Harbor was a happy place, from the cheery mint green and white kitchen to the electric piano in the front hall and that garden.
I took a small still life of lemons that I'd always liked and a history of her nursing school as well. I sat down with my cell phone and snapped photos from albums of me and my sisters spanning my birth up to 1971. There was no way I'd ever get through all of the albums in the house in a weekend. I told Elaine and Miriam several times over the weekend that if they wanted to box up all the photo albums and ship them to me, I'd make sure we had good quality scans of everything in them.
Miriam had done the same with a bunch of old photos and I helped crop and improve image quality on them Friday night so we could have them set up as a slideshow for the funeral luncheon.
Mass Saturday morning at St. John Neumann, a church with atrocious acoustics. Mom wanted "Ave Maria" and the church singer obviously hadn't warmed up. Miriam did a eulogy. Nick mumbled his way through the first reading. I did the second: a somewhat abridged version of St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, 5:1-10. Tents and courageousness. Coleen made up for the church cantor with a soaring "Amazing Grace."
Mom's swimming class from Heritage Harbor showed up. So did Dale, her handyman.
Obituary. (BTW, if you have to plant someone in the Annapolis area, the folks at Hardesty Funeral home did a beautiful job, were extremely kind, and didn't bat an eye when Elaine asked to put Jackpot's cremains in with Mom. Then I'm sure they get weirder than that in their line.
Slideshow Miriam and I put together for the luncheon after the funeral mass.
The luncheon would have been at Bertucci's, which she loved, but they had no private rooms, so the girls chose Macaroni Grill instead. It was much better than I would have expected. Had great conversation with Dad and my Uncle Jim.
We buried her on Monday next to her parents, brother Lee (the priest), her sister Pat and husband Bill and Pat and Bill's son Kevin at St. Aloyisius up in Pottstown. Elaine had hired a limo, but it was just Dad, her and me in it because Miriam and Alex decided to drive. Our driver was a softspoken older African American gentleman and he took very good care of us. I would have been willing to drive us all, but Elaine was exhausted and it was a good call.
Father Hickey, an old friend of Uncle Lee's and my Mom's did the graveside service. I was standing behind Dad (there were chairs, but after three hours in a car I felt like standing). He began murmuring in Hebrew during the Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary. Clouds rolled in and a breeze cooled the oppressive humidity. I was glad to see that the treeline had grown up to mostly obscure the cooling towers of the Limerick nuke plant. I remember Mom making snarky comments about the view when we buried my grandfather up there in 1987.
Over the course of the week from when I first got the news, right up to the middle of the night before the burial when it woke me up in the middle of the night, I had been earwormed by Fred Astaire singing "Cheek to Cheek." So while people were drifting away and figuring out what to do about lunch and when the eclipse was going to start, I stood at the foot of the box she isn't really in and sang it. Then I said, "Go home already."
In the film, "Bridge of Spies," Mark Rylance plays a man accused of spying for the Russians. Throughout the story, his lawyer (Tom Hanks) says, "You don't seem alarmed/upset/worried." The spy always replies calmly, "Would it help?"
They say there are seven stages of grief. I seem to have gone straight to Acceptance.
Everyone dies. She was 84. Dad's going to go sooner or later and I know that. Do I wish I'd called more often, when she would scold that I was running up the phone bill? We emailed and texted. I got to see her in May and we had a good visit. My family and I laughed a lot this weekend, looking at pictures, finding treasures tucked in drawers, remembering adventures and conversations and funny stuff she would do.
She had a good life. She died in her studio surrounded by things she had made and it was quick. Not a bad note to end on.