Elissa Nelson's Journal
August 12th--An Update from Margaret
Written Aug 12, 2013 8:55pm by marti mogensenHi all in the Elissa community,As of Saturday, August 10, it has been three months in hospice. We have been grateful for the many hospice workers ("Serenity" is the group's name) who come to see Elissa. Nurses, aides, a massage therapist, acupuncturist, chaplain/companion and social worker. We look forward to their visits and count on their support and ideas. We are also grateful for Portland friends and neighbors who remind us often of their availability and to the visitors from afar, including Elissa's aunts, Marti and Mary, who were here from Berkeley and West Salem, Wisconsin in late July as was Thorunn Bjarnadottir, our friend from Minneapolis.Elissa is having more difficulties with various things; sometimes it appears that her body is shutting down. She has troubles with memory, numbers, sequencing and loses track of time of day or what might have just happened. She is weaker physically and requires more helpers to move from bed to wheelchair, for example. It is sometimes scary (we don't want her to fall!) and sometimes deeply sad. Yet, we continue to see the essential qualities that have been part of her since birth. She is kind, concerned about her friends and caregivers. She is tenacious and determined, eager to go to the coffeeshop or to the Coast, and circling round again and again to put forward an idea ("maybe we could go for a walk and then stop for lunch or we could go for a walk, then visit the Zen House, and then go for lunch". Lunch at a particular new neighborhood place being her goal.) She retains a sense of humor ("it would be terrible if we couldn't laugh") and she remains optimistic. When thinking about Megan going away for this summer, she said, "but she does this every summer. She goes and then she always comes back." And she did!We have some transitions at the house. Elissa is now in the sunny front bedroom, with a clear view of the living room and front porch if she wants. Emily is moving her Seattle stuff to Elissa's next weekend and looks forward to settling in Portland with Jeff. Elissa's dear friend & former NY roommate, Laurice Hwang, is visiting now. I arrived Sunday morning and the Zen meditation and writing with Kerrie continue as usual this week. Katie Keller is bringing over dinner Wed night, after Mitch comes by to take Elissa for a walk and lunch. It is a busy, ever-changing schedule and Elissa and her caregivers welcome your place in it.Thank you for keeping Elissa in your thoughts & in your life.
All the best,Margaret, Elissa's mother
The Birthday Update!
Written Jul 22, 2013 2:17pm by marti mogensenThe Birthday Update--from Elissa's mother, Margaret
Thanks to all of you who celebrated Elissa's birthday. She has been happily inundated with mail, with phone calls, texts and emails, with visits and gifts AND with a fabulous lawn/porch party on her birthday, July 21, Sunday. Thanks to Emilyn and Jeff and Anne for all they did to pull off a day that was thrilling and heartwarming for Elissa. And thanks to all (I stopped counting at 35 people) who came with your delicious food, beautiful flowers and happy hugs. It was a very fun and special day; one I will never forget. Elissa brought us all together and we're blessed by that.
It's been a lovely birthday weekend. Our dear friend Thorunn arrived Friday night, another example of how friendships grow and sustain us. I was her mentor when she was in grad school at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and she quickly met Elissa and Em, then 11 and almost 8. She and Remi were married in our home (Em "gave" her away), Thorunn lived with us while transitioning between Iceland and the US, and we've shared many things. On Saturday we visited Thorunn's sister Selma's farm in Independence Valley, Washington--an amazing place and like going home to visit family. (You may see her own Flying Cow Creamery yogurt for sale, made to the highest standards.)
Thorunn is, as we all are, inspired by Elissa's attitude and good grace, even as she gets physically weaker and has more cognition issues. We are all learning from her.
The celebration continues this week as Marti arrives Thursday for a week and our sister Mary (both Elissa's aunts, of course) arrives Saturday. The only shadow is that Emilyn got word Sunday that her apartment in Seattle was flooded (from an upstairs tenant's apt) so she returned with Jeff to get things dealt with. Thorunn drove them home, and then backtracked to stay with Selma for a few days before returning here. Elissa and I are alone and it is quiet!
Thanks for being part of this community. You are always welcome here--whether arriving in person or by mail or text or whatever works.
july 1st----update from margaret, e's mom!
Written Jul 2, 2013 4:18pm by marti mogensenHi everyone,Thanks for the update, Megan. We miss you here on Rosa Parks Way but are so grateful for your consistent supportive presence. Elissa loved catching up with you last night.This is Margaret, Elissa's mother. It has been almost two months since we began hospice onMay 10 as Elissa experienced the steep decline in her health, going from a cane (and frequent falls) to a walker and then a wheelchair, all within 72 hours. I notice changes, both physical and cognitive, when I have been away for a week or so and then return: when here, I am less aware of them and we settle into the new normal rather easily. Fortunately, Elissa is very pleasant to be around and there is laughter and a lot of good will; without that, it would be a very different experience--for her caregivers but also for Elissa. I remember how, following her 2003 surgery, the ICU nurses commented on how polite and kind she was, and I noted how they clearly gravitated to her. One aide, a Muslim woman, told me that when she got home at night she and her sons all prayed for "the young girl who is so sick."Elissa is moved and excited by all the friends who are reaching out to her from around the world. Thank you for the letters, postcards, shared memories, promised visits and the care of dear friends and neighbors here in Portland. It is inspiring and amazing to see all the kindness and generosity.Elissa is also very connected to Heart of Wisdom, the Zen Center close to her house. She goes to a Sunday discussion group there and hosts a Tuesday evening "sit" here. Sunday, at the discussion (a weekly series on mindfulness meditations) she told her friends there that she is focused "on three things really--humbleness/humility, patience, and gratitude."Know that we hold you all in our hearts and look forward to hearing from you and seeing you. Life can be a bit hectic here sometimes but please be patient with us.With gratitude,MargaretMargaret Nelson BrinkhausPH 612/296-035714375 Tyrol DriveMarystown, Minnesota 55379