When you look at Annie’s hospital bed, what do you see? I see colorful pillows, a colorful hot air balloon-fleece tied blanket-hand made by Annie, a colorful sheet, beauty, but most of all I see love, and feel a deep sadness and loneliness over the loss of my beautiful wife Annie. Many memories were made in that bed. Annie’s bones were very badly diseased from the cancer, and she was always hurting. Over the 29 month period she was in the bed, there were many nights when I’d give her a treat. First thing I’d do is prop her up on the side of the bed using her pillows to support her back and let her legs dangle over the side. We had a very large stainless steel bowl that I’d fill with warm water and Dove Moisturizing Soap, then place her feet in there for a warm soak. When I took her feet out I’d dry them off with a soft towel, then place her back on the bed. From that point on I’d cut (if needed) and clean her toe nails. Then I’d use Nivea Cream to give her a nice foot massage, leg message, her backside, her chest, her neck and face. She got the works…And she loved it. It was “sooooo” relaxing for her. I’ve said this before, it’s really the little things we do as caregivers that make a terminally ill patients life more bearable. Think of it this way. My wife was disabled, laying in a hospital bed, and didn’t have much to look forward too. So anything I could do, if only for that moment in time, to make her life a little better, I did it. My daughter Melissa did those things for her momma too. You know what, it would be easy to give up when you know you’re are fighting a losing battle, so we tried to keep her mind happily occupied as much as we could.
Most nights we had an evening ritual. At 10:30 P.M. she liked watching the David Letterman show. So I’d sit beside her bed in the wheelchair and watch it with her. Usually over a bowl of Brier’s Vanilla Ice Cream with Raspberries on top. And during the hour he was on, Beverly would usually call and say a prayer with Annie. Well, after a short chat with Beverly and a comforting prayer, Annie would normally go night, nights. But the deal was, if she fell asleep, I was to wake her up for the show coming on after Dave’s, which was The Craig Ferguson show. She and I loved that crazy Scottish man. He made us laugh so much, for a fleeting moment we both lost sight of the world of cancer. Of course, Annie being English she really understood his sick sense of humor. You see, no matter how bad things are for a person, sometimes we can make their day or evening just a little bit better through selfless deeds. And I think as caregivers that, should always be a goal we set for ourselves. Making a positive difference in the lives of others is so important for the advancement of humanity.
Sometimes love is a story within a story and a small portion of the love can be hidden in the details. For example, the fleece blanket. There was a time during the last 8 months of Annie’s illness that she wanted to make tied fleece blankets for the children and adults of cancer, that in her words were less fortunate than her. I could never reconcile that statement as I couldn’t figure out how anyone could be less fortunate than her. She was dying. Regardless, over that period of time she sat on her hospital bed and made around sixty fleece blankets. Each and every one had to be of a uniquely different designed pattern. She gave a few of them to nurses, friends, family, but donated most of them to cancer. Her focus was mainly on the “Children of Cancer.” I still remember the day when she came up with what I thought was a crazy idea. She asked me if I would go pick up 2 1/2 meters of a manly fleece fabric. So I did, and to my surprise she made a blanket just over 7 feet long, to be donated for a big man. How sweet was that. She really didn’t leave anyone out. The last blanket she made was adult sized, had a solid red background, with beautiful white hearts on it. That was one of my favorites. One day, one of her favorite nurses came over. She was a young speech therapy nurse. She remarked on how beautiful it was, and Annie told her she could have it. She picked that blanket up, tucked it under her arms close to her chest, and held it while rocking from side to side as if showing affection and love. And that’s what Annie was about–affection and love for others.
The Hospital Bed
Eight months after Annie passed away, the hospital bed was still sitting in our living room and I was still sleeping on the couch beside it. I was a griever, and the thought of putting the bed in the garage didn’t work for me.
Probably in the eighth or ninth month I received a phone call from my daughter Melissa. She was at work at Family Medicine East. Knowing that I was very sensitive about anything to do with moving the bed, she started tippy toeing around a conversation about the bed. Here’s why! The hospital bed was more than just a symbol of where she spent much of the last 29 months of her life, it was a symbol of “Love.” It’s where she lived and where she ultimately died. The last time I held her in my arms, I was sitting up near the head of the bed, cradling her after she passed away. When I laid her back down on the bed, I just wanted her back. And perhaps that bed was a symbol of a piece of her that I just didn’t want to let go of. Death for us mortals here on earth, is so final.
Melissa gently told me a story. A young 16 year old boy had been in a serious motorcycle accident receiving serious injuries, to include broken legs and an arm. He and his parents were patients at the clinic, so Melissa knew them. Apparently Melissa heard that their insurance company would not approve a hospital bed for the boy and they were pulling out all stops trying to get him one. So she called me, told me the story, and I just cried. Tears of Joy. I now knew where the bed needed to be. And I know that is exactly how Annie would have wanted it. Perfect!
Melissa called the family, told them where I lived, and a couple of days later the dad came over with a couple of his young sons to load the bed. I was really relieved. And I got to tell the child’s father that his son was going to be in a very special bed, one that was always full of love.