Down East 2013 ©
It’s a beautiful day here in Mahoosuc Mills: high seventies, no humidity, sun shinin’, birds singin’. I’m sitting at my computer thinking about what I’m going to write about this week, when across the street, I see two men wheeling a stretcher up the walkway to the Phinneys’ front door. Weird! Never heard an ambulance. But as I look more closely, I see there’s a body bag on the stretcher. My heart sinks as I realize: Lois has finally died, poor dear.
She’s been in the process of dying for weeks now: lung cancer. Lois smoked her whole life. Her husband, Roger, didn’t, though, and he did his darnedest to get her to stop. She tried, but it never took. Cars have been coming and going all week: folks checking in, their family visiting and hospice, of course. Where would we be without ‘em, huh?
The door just opened. They’re wheeling the stretcher out. For a minute I’m thinking maybe they’re just taking Lois back to the hospital to drain the fluid from her lungs. You know, that the ambulance has been hiding behind that big maple tree all this time. But then I see the way her son Bob is standing there, back stiff, hands crossed in front, and I know there’s no ambulance.
Just then it pops into my head how September 11th, 2001 was a beautiful day, too, just like this one. Remember? When I finally had the strength of will to shut off the TV that day, I went outside and threw the ball for our dog, Belle. Over and over, I’d toss it, and she’d bring it back, tail wagging, no idea what had just happened. Sun shinin’, birds singin’…
Becky, Lois, and Roger’s oldest, wanders out, looking lost. She has Down Syndrome, and though she’s in her forties, still lives with her parents. “She’s my gift,” Lois used to say. “I don’t know what I’d do without her.” Becky stands there for a bit, weight shifting from foot to foot, then turns and goes back inside, screen door slamming.
Scamp hears the slam, runs to our door, standing on his back legs. Before he can start yapping, I snap, “Scamp, don’t you dare bark!”
As I’m watching them put Lois into the back of a big black SUV-type thing, I can’t help but flashback to another beautiful day, unseasonably warm for October, when my own mother passed away. The stretcher, the body bag, discussing which door would be best for going in and out. My sister Irene and our Dad couldn’t do it, so I ended up opening and closing the door and the back gate as Mom left our house for the last time.
Across the street, the SUV slowly drives away. Bob starts to wave good-bye, thinks better of it, and lets his arm drop to his side. He stands there a minute, his posture sagging. Then Bob straightens up, turns, walks back up the path and goes inside.
Next door to the Phinneys’ someone is using a weed wacker. The darn droning of it won’t let up, and I’m thinking, Lois has just died. Have some respect!
But that’s the thing: life goes on, right? The fella’s still wacking weeds as Jim Burnell, of Burnell’s Funeral Home, returns with a portfolio under his arm. So many decisions to make, things to organize, details to take care of. If you’ve never been through it all, that might seem overwhelming. But believe me, it’s nice to have something to do. It’s kind of a diversion, really.
I start wondering what I’ll make to bring over to the Phinneys’ for Roger, Bob, and Becky. The weed wacker drones, cars pass by. The hanging pink petunia plant by the Phinneys’ front door is still gorgeous. Sun shinin’, birds singin’. It’s a beautiful day here in Mahoosuc Mills.
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
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