June 20, 2020
Three months ago today. Friday March 20th. My friend was dying. At her own request. Refusing further treatment and only asking for pain management. After decades of fighting against the horrible disease that changed her life at the age of only 25 and caused her so much pain, discomfort and intrusion, she was succumbing to complications from surgery to remove a pancreatic tumor and piece together the remaining organs and tissues in her destroyed gut from so many other procedures from the previous nearly 50 years.
She had a pain threshold that dwarfed mine so I can only imagine the level of pain she endured for those weeks following the 10 1/2 hour surgery that had been deemed successful. But the after effects. That's what had her scared from day one. And boy was she right. I've not witnessed anyone in that kind of pain before. And she warned me about it. She told me I'd hate it. That I'd be shocked by it. That I should brace for it.
On that day, I KNEW she was "dying", BUT I also knew that I would get to spend a whole day with her soon. Friday was going to be the day but she wanted to meet with her attorney and they had JUST changed the rules at the hospice hospital. When she was admitted just days before the rule was no more than 2 in her room at one time. Then the next day - no more than one. Then almost immediately, no more than one visitor in a 24 hour period. Not one at a time...just one. So Friday was to be Sarah's day. Once she entered the hospital that morning to visit with Miki, she was going to be the ONLY visitor allowed for 24 hours. SHE could go and come back as many times as she wanted in that 24 hours, but nobody else would be allowed.
I had spent almost an hour on the phone with Miki the day before reading her every single Caring Bridge comment made by all of her friends, family, students, and acquaintances. I heard her chuckle and awww and even interject some details about a memory that had been related. I think it made her supremely happy to hear all of the words, sentiment, love poured out on this site.
I was looking forward to MY day. And not knowing if I should selfishly hope for more or lovingly hope that her pain and suffering would soon be over. To my horror, a late afternoon phone call telling me that we needed to get to the hospital NOW and that there was very little time is burned in my brain forever. I understood the gravity of those words. I just wanted to see my friend alive one more time.
When we arrived she was still breathing. VERY measured and very shallowly. We touched her. We held her hands. We told we loved her. We told he we would miss her forever. She took only 3 or 4 of those breaths after we arrived and never opened her eyes - but she somehow held on so that we could see her alive one more time. We numbly went about gathering her things and giving the hospice nurse the information about which mortuary to call. And then we left to live lives without Miriam, (Miki) E. Felsenburg in it. Not yet realizing the impact that would make and the toll it would take on our hearts.
Today. Three months later. I still talk to her. Every day. Some days I tell her how much I miss her and love her and wish I'd appreciated her more and spent even MORE time with her. Sometimes I ask "why didn't you tell me more about your amazing life and the impact you had on so many?" And I know the answer. She was humble. The great ones always are.
With the warming days and continuing self isolation and covid fears I wonder what our summer would have been like had this event not happened. Would we get to attend even one art fair this year? She would have needed to take MUCH stronger precautions with her compromised health so I know our lives would have been far different this summer than our summer of fun in 2019. But she would have been here to talk to and play bridge with (online only) and share thoughts on whatever Netflix or Hulu or prime or Xfinity tv series we were into at the time. She would tell me stories about Lily and Benny and send me pictures and I'd ooh and ahh and tell her I wanted to come over to see her and THEM! And we'd figure a way to do it safely for her. Their new mommy is so kind to send me such cute photos of them in their new life. It warms my heart and I'm so thankful for them and the stories of their antics. It's keeping Miki alive for me in some ways.
So-3 months on - I'm not a lot better. I'm missing her even more than I did at the beginning when there were details to handle and other people to soothe and inform and personal belongings to go through and arrangements to make and information to impart. Now, all of that is behind me. And I have nothing but time to miss her through.
Here's to you "Lois". The best "mom" I ever had. My best friend. I miss you so much and love you so dearly.
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