When Mom called to tell me Flossie was at the Hospice House, her voice was quiet, blanketed in sadness as deep as the ocean. “There isn’t much time,” she said. “I’ll take you,” I said.
Flossie’s five kids, with their kids, packed the comfortable visiting area. We reintroduced ourselves, now adults evolved from the kids who were neighbors in Highgate Springs, Vermont, decades ago.
Paula brought Mom to Flossie’s room. When Paula returned in tears, Julie, the oldest and my age, asked, “What’s wrong? Do we need a nurse?”
“No”, Paula said. “I’m crying because I’m happy! Theresa told Mom she wasn’t sure if she should come, and Mom said ‘I’m so glad you did.’ And she smiled and held out her arms. She smiled!”
The power of friendship.
I took my time walking down the hall and entered the hushed room. Mom was holding Flossie’s hand in one hand, patting her shoulder with the other. Flossie was only semi-conscious, yet clearly comforted by my mother’s touch.
We sat quietly for half an hour until Flossie’s grand-children entered the room.
Mom leaned over and kissed Flossie’s papery cheek, tucked her sheet just a bit tighter, and said, “You sleep now. I love you.”
As we left her room, I put my arm around my mother. She wept quietly as we made our way back to the family. We said our good-byes. They promised to keep us posted.
On the way home, we shared stories of Flossie, familiar stories of my early childhood now cast clearly as stories of friendship between newly married women who were new moms. Women tossed together by geography as neighbors, meshed together by a similar life’s milestones.
I can see Flossie standing at the stove over huge pots of food, Mom talking her ear off, stories (soaps) playing the background. These are my earliest memories. Now I wish I’d paid more attention to the content of those conversations. I see their mouths in constant, often simultaneous, motion. What did they talk about? Even in sharing the stories, Mom didn’t share details.
She didn’t have to. I know what they talked about: new husbands, new babies, more babies, so many babies, diapers, rashes, bottles, naps, ear infections, recipes, hopes, fears, dreams, frustrations, desires.
I know because this is what I talk to my best friends about. This is what best friends have talked about forever, and always.
Flossie passed that night. The next day we returned so Mom could say one last good-bye. I know Flossie appreciated that.
I did, too.