with Dignity - And Laughter
October 1, 2014. We were sad to learn of the recent death of Dick Miller. May his stories live on.
by Dick Miller
next-door neighbor at the Beaverton Hills Assisted Living center was
dying, but you’d never know it from the way things were going
moved in shortly after the previous resident, Arlene, moved to
California to be closer to family. Delores and I shared a love of
jazz, so I got to know her and her family very quickly. She
especially loved to come to listen when I gathered a bunch of my
musician friends once a month for a Dixieland jam session, ostensibly
for the residents, but it was a lot of fun for us, too.
I saw Delores’ attendance at these sessions change from
arriving with her walker to arriving in her wheelchair to being
unable to attend, I realized her health was deteriorating. I saw the
frequency of her family members’ visits increase to the point
where one of her family members was there at all times, day and
Delores was awake, the door, blinds, and curtains were open, her
favorite music was playing in the background, people were chatting
and laughing, and Delores was in the middle of it all. Even when
Delores drifted off to sleep in the midst of the clamor, the laughter
and chatter continued. I think this speaks highly of the kind of
people they are, because I believe they understand that,
subconsciously, Dolores was there enjoying herself right along with
them. Jokester that I am, I went next door one rowdy day, flashed an
old badge I found in a desk drawer, announced myself as the
Police,” and said I’d have to write them up if they
didn’t get a handle on it. The burst of laughter that ensued
was what I expected and hoped for.
took one of Delores’ daughters aside one day to tell her how
impressed I was with the way the family gathered around to show their
love and support. Relatives came from all over the map, including
children, nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, grandchildren, and more.
Even several dogs came to visit. More than one pizza party took place
in the apartment and spilled out into the atrium nearby. This was a
wonderful reflection on what a great job Delores did in raising her
kids, and they, in turn, in raising theirs.
used to stop by Delores’ open door every so often on the way
my apartment next door, just to say “Hi” and see
things were going. One day, with Ella Fitzgerald singing in the
background, Delores’ daughter told me “It
long, now.” I asked if I could come in and say goodbye. I
brought my wheelchair close to her bedside where she lay quietly
sleeping, and held her hand for a moment or two. I got an
overwhelming feeling of peace from Delores, as if she knew it was her
time to go, and she was ready. She made her transition that night.
thing I learned from this experience is that life, in all its
aspects, is to be celebrated. Rather than say at a memorial service,
“Gee, she was a great person, I really loved her,”
the opportunity to do it now.
when it’s my time to be at death’s door, I sure
there’s a pizza delivery guy waiting.
(Unless you type
line of the message
to send it.)
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