A friend died on January 7, 2012. She was just a few years older than me. We met when my mother and her father were in the same LTACH (long-term acute care hospital) for several months. By the time she and her mother arrived with her father, we’d been there for several months and knew the ropes. On her first afternoon, she was trying to make tea in the “nutrition closet” as we called it. I told her the exact minutes and seconds it took to heat one and two cups of hot water. I’d done it many many times already for myself and my mother.
When I saw her a few days later, I didn’t recognize her. We often joked about this in the few years since those days. The first time I met her, she had two or three inches of gray hair growing in above her reddish-brown ends. She’d been daily at her father’s side in the hospital for a couple of months and hadn’t been able to dye it. At the LTACH, they had a salon downstairs for patients. But Maria was able to finally get her hair colored.
We became each other’s one person support group both there and then upstairs, in the sub-acute (or, as we called it, sub-standard) rehab. When we took Mom home with Hospice and she died a few days later, Maria and her boyfriend Gus came to the wake. I didn’t expect it. It was dear of them.
Nine months later, while her father, was back in the hospital, Gus died suddenly of a heart attack. On the day Maria buried her love, she had to then go back to the hospital to take her father home, because he was out of insurance covered hospital days for the year. Maria and Gus had had to delay renovating the apartment upstairs in her family home while she was caretaking her Dad. Now, they would never move into it together. Three months after Gus, her father died.
Maria and I talked regularly, but only ever seemed to manage to see each other at hospitals and funerals. Recently, three years after they both died, she was finally inching toward putting her life back together. The refrigerator for the apartment got delivered two weeks ago. The floor would be in this month.
She wasn’t feeling well yesterday morning so went to lie down. When she got up a little while later, her 89-year-old mother heard a thud. By the time the ambulance arrived, she was already gone.
She never really got over the loss of Gus. Some people told her to get on with her life. I never pushed her. I only recently asked her if she thought she might ever consider dating again. She couldn’t yet imagine it. I knew she would come to her healing in her own time. But now, she doesn’t have to. She’s with Gus.
Life is unpredictable, strange, and in some sad way, even poetic. They died in much the same way and are together again.
Rest, Maria. Be at peace…