My friend Jane passed away Saturday evening. She was 91. Her desire was to have her body donated to science. She was hopeful that if they studied an “old” body, maybe they could learn how to help older people lead a healthier and richer life.
There will be no service. No hearse for family and friends to follow to a cemetery, no grave to place flowers. No sad hymns sung.
But I mourn for Jane. I weep for Jane. I will write words to honor the life that her family had no time for any longer.
We didn’t mean to be friends. I knocked on her door one day, while visiting at the nursing home, and she invited me into her room. She then proceeded to tell me that if I was going to talk to her, I’d have to speak up! So I did. ~Smile~ She was polite, yet direct. Sweet, but bossy. A very picky eater. Maybe what I saw was myself in forty something more years? She loved to read, had a sweet tooth, and had to have her daily diet Pepsi. She was soon to be moving to another state to live with her granddaughter.
Jane was an only child. She adored her mother, an RN, and her daddy, a pharmacist. She never knew of hard times because no matter what, her daddy spoiled her. She went to a dance with her girlfriends one night at the canteen in Kansas City….and she danced with a soldier that soon became her husband. They had a son, though at a young age, a childhood disease crippled him for life. Years later a daughter was born. When Jane lost her mother, too young….she was broken and depressed. The family doctor asked her into his office one day. Jane, he said, you have to move on. You need to do something with your life. She asked him, “What could I do?” And he told her to go to school and become a registered nurse, and that’s just what she did. She eventually ended up in the pediatrics department of a children’s hospital. But before that, she did private nursing, and loved talking about when she took care of Elizabeth Taylor’s father for a time while in California. In her later years, she was a beloved nanny for a Tulsa newscaster’s family. She loved their boys as if they were her grandsons.
Jane called Kansas City home, though she lived in Oklahoma longer. She was of the Cherokee Tribe, and the history she shared was just amazing.
Jane was not an old person in a nursing home. She was smart and witty, sad & alone, she was living history with so much to share! Her last year was rough though. When she finally resolved that she would end her life where she was, she gave up. She was tired. She was finished. But we did give it a good fight, didn’t we Jane?
This is real life. Thousands are in nursing home facilities that would love for you to knock on their door. But it is a commitment. I had no idea of the commitment. And advocates are needed because I would guess that maybe two out of twelve people that work in such a place are there to actually help and care for the patients. God bless those that do!
The others ignore the call lights or bring food that cannot be eaten, or let them live in filth and pain and stench. They speak in a condescending manner to the resident. They abuse. They neglect. They steal.
Every person in a nursing home needs a person. Jane wanted you to know this.
So here’s to marshmallows, cinnamon discs, and diet Pepsi, sweet Jane. You can rest in peace now, my friend. I told them. Go with the angels.