It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to share a story. I know I wrote my last post in May and at that time, it had been a year since my mom’s death and now it has been another six months without her. Time moves on.
Over the last few years I have been writing about her, I have shared stories about the holidays and many of the issues we went through. For many people, it is a time for family, being around our friends, good food and parties, faith and traditions. For others, it is a hard time mixed with sadness, grief and a sense of nostalgic meaning.
I have a fairly new hospice case, a sweet gentleman with a shy grin and a constant baseball cap on. This week it is a U of M cap, slightly tilted off to the side with a smudge of dirt on the front of it.
He is happy to see me and pats me on the back. I know we aren’t supposed to have favorites but in all honesty, I love coming to see him. Our banter has been the same over the past few weeks.
He: “You are here to set up my rat poison, I see.”
Me: “I see that you haven’t used your oxygen all week!”
I enter his warm kitchen and we sit down at the table. We talk a little and I start to set up his meds. I can tell he is watching me, just like my mom used to do. I can tell he is a little winded and he is telling me about riding a bike at the Y today. I warn him that he needs to keep that quiet or he will be kicked off of hospice. He gives me a mischievous grin. I grin right back.
I finish the medications and he is quiet. I know he has gone through a lot this year. It’s been hard for him and at times I know he struggles with family issues. Same issues I struggle with.
He confesses he is not excited about the holiday. I want to agree with him but I don’t. I just listen. He talks and I listen some more.
At the end of our visit he stands up and like he always does, goes to his beautiful baby grand piano. I have heard the story of the piano before. After many years of admiring it at the home of one of his customers , he bartered a job for him and the customer let him have it. Unbeknownst to him, he got it home and it was built the same year he was born. He felt this was a sign and I agree.
He asks what I am in the mood for and I respond…holiday music. He starts to play, no sheet music and eyes shut. He plays a jazzy version of a song I can’t name but I recognize, and then he plays Silent Night. I wish I could explain how beautiful it sounded. He is now breathless from playing but still refusing the oxygen I have encouraged. I could listen to him play all day, he is that good.
We get to the door, I am running behind on my visits and need to go. I remind him I will be back the day after Christmas and he pauses. “That’s my anniversary!” I know he has been missing his wife, she has been gone for a few years. He gives me a look that I recognize and he gives me a hug. I know how hard this is for him and all of us at the holidays. Loss, grief, longing and his own mortality.
He wishes me a Merry Christmas and I yell back to him…”Wear your oxygen!” He laughs.
The Piano Man almost moved me to tears on his snowy, cold sidewalk.
I have had friends lose their mother and their father this year. Friends have also lost their brothers and their sisters. Grandparents, neighbors, Aunts, Uncles. Thinking of all you who have lost a loved one this year.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.