Monday, March 20
I got to Nashville by 2:00, met Phoo at the Harriman exit and picked up Phyllis around 5:30. We pulled into the hospice at 6. Karen, Patsy Smith and Sue, Rose Smith's daughter, Karen's oldest cousin, were there. Patsy was hunched over Meredith, with her hand under the mouth...don't know why...but she looked up as I came in the room with a baleful expression. Karen was holding Meredith's hand on the other side of the bed and seemed relieved to see us. Pat had been up for a number of hours and was tired and refusing to take her hand away...some sort of ownership. Meredith's face was drawn and her eyes half open but not seeing. Her feet were swollen and blue, her breath, labored. Her hair was short and thick and had streaks of gray and her nails, long and polished. It was difficult to see her this way. There were no dimples left, no lively eyes, no smile.
We sat with her...like Dad...alternating quiet and chuckles as we remembered the mischievious part of her life. Patsy did not participate and got quite angry with us for chuckling...she threatened to throw us out...Karen and Sue both replied, "No, you won't"...she countered...it was quite amazing. Sue tried to get Patsy to go to bed or go home for a while, Patsy replied, "NO! My place is right here!" She REALLY didn't want me around and no love is lost between Pat and Karen. Phyllis and Sue went around midnight, to get Karen and me something to eat. Pat finally found the couch and relinquished her position. I suggested to Karen that she take the seat at Meredith's head and finally, there was a feeling of calm.
We decided after Sue left for home and Phyllis had returned, to roll Meredith to the other side because sores were apparent on her shoulder. We did it and took off the air tube. We gave her a hit of morphine to ease the turn. Her eyes widened when we got her to the other side. I motioned to Karen to come over to the other side so Meredith could see her. The three of us held her hands, stroked her head and whispered to her that it was time to go to sleep. I will swear that her left eye wandered for a second...almost like a response. Her breathing slowed and stopped, her heart stopped soon after and after three gasps, she was gone. Karen and Phyllis and I teared...Patsy had been sitting up on the couch, I motioned to her as the heart stopped, she rushed over before the last breaths.
Then the craziness started...
The nurses came in and asked if they could clean Meredith and the room up. They said it would take just a few minutes. Patsy said that no, she wanted time. The three of us went into the family room. Half an hour later, Phyllis went in to try to get Pat to leave, she was severely talked to by Pat. Karen was furious. After five minutes, Karen went in and told Pat she had to get out. The nurses spent just a few minutes, closed Meredith's eyes and Karen went in for alone time. Shortly after, she came out, the three of us said our goodbyes and cleaned up Meredith's stuff, leaving for home around 2.
When we got to Phyllis and Karen's Aunt Jo and Tim were awake. Aunt Jo said she was at peace with it all, Tim gave me a number of hugs, we talked for just a short while and went to bed.
Since then, stories have gotten more and more confusing...Patsy was angry at us, Karen in particular, because we "let her sleep through the death"...she was also angry because we had shared funny memories about Meredith. Karen, Phyllis and I talked about it and feel that perhaps Patsy was in love with Meredith or certainly felt that she had privileges that no one else did. She did help Meredith through difficult times with her chemotherapy and was a safe place to stay when she was trying to escape Bobby. My belief is that Patsy may be bipolar. She would alternate between unreasonable behavior to being pleasant very quickly. She would rant at Aunt Joan, not feeling that the mother should be staying with the daughter. At one point, Tim took the heat and dished it back to her. He seems to float on both sides of the family structure sometimes not being accurate in his relaying information. Karen had a huge weight on her shoulders during this time. She didn't have the luxury of merely concentrating on Meredith...it seemed a constant balancing act.
Slides of the time there.
The funeral was on Saturday.
Ford King officiated. He is Uncle David's pastor at the First Presbyterian Church and was willing to use Karen's words in the service. It was held at Evan's Funeral Home. Karen, Phyllis and I got there an hour early so that we could meet with Ford. He asked questions about Meredith and then Karen greeted people who had come to pay respects. A number of her work friends showed up. The Smith side had Carl, Marvin and Patsy, Uncle Clay's siblings. Jimmy Smith and his daughter, Ariel, were there. Sue, Rose Smith's (eldest sibling) daughter and Karen's eldest cousin, came. Meredith's stepdaughter, Beau Kennedy, was there. Tim came in. Patsy didn't acknowledge us. Phyllis and Karen's lovely next door neighbor, Blanche and her husband came.
When the service started, Karen wanted me and Phyllis to flank her and asked Phoo and Uncle David to sit with us in the front row. Jimmy Smith and Ariel sat behind us and Tim sat with Beau in the next row. Ford turned a few things around but all in all, it was short and sweet. Karen had picked out a piece of music that Butch Evans had in stock.
The song used for Meredith's service.
After the service, Karen, Phyllis, Uncle David, Phoo and I went to his mountain top for a little spiritual cleansing. We were all pooped at day's end. Phyllis' sweet parents, Ann and Charlie, had come to stay with Aunt Joan during the service and Tim was supposed to go to stay with her afterwards...but didn't show...so Charlie returned to give Aunt Joan something to eat until our return.