October 17, 2010
Goodbye Rita....my sweet Rita
It was days before I was to leave for Richmond and I still didn't have a plane ticket. I'm a procrastinator but it was getting ridicules! Prices were rising! Somehow I think I was afraid Rita would slip away if I left town, and somehow buying the ticket made it so. For years there were times when I watched her slipping down but she ALWAYS rallied!! Yes, Rita had this amazing way of surprising us, like a little imp, playing a trick on us. Frank and I often joked that she would outlive us all...and it really felt like that for many years. But we all knew it was changing. Lately, as I drove home in the darkness along Quail Roost Dr I'd think of the simplest thing and I would begin to cry, soon I was bawling my eyes out....until last week when I asked, myself
"What is wrong with you Ginny? You cry every time you come down this road!" Now it would seem obvious to most but maybe I needed to form the words in my mind.
"Rita IS dying and I am very sad......" answering my own question. I didn't know when, but I knew it was going to happen, and nothing could stop it. Yes, I knew she was old, yes,she was failing, yes she would be in a better place! YES! YES! YES!! Rita was my 2nd job, NO!...she was my friend and I hoped I was hers too. So I was gentle with myself, agreeing it was okay to be sad and I went home and bought the ticket.
Rita was strong, tenacious, and tough, with an amazing will to live even in that dark place called Alzheimer's Disease. Was it really dark I often wondered?? I did not know, some days she seemed confused and frightened but most of the time she was quite content. During our visits, I wanted to bring stability and peace to her heart, through touch, gentle words, stories, and songs. So in the best way I knew how, that is what I did for 11 years, always believing SOMEWHERE there was a connection...a place where she knew she was safe and loved very much.
Several weeks ago I found Rita in her reclining chair gazing into the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the window. I stood looking down at her, she seemed so frail and finally I spoke,
"Rita, are you tired?" A small tear formed in her eye, just a tiny one brimming to the edge but not falling on her cheek...and then she gave the smallest little nod. Was it real, did she understand? Was she trying to tell me she really was tired? I think so. I told her we knew she had fought a good fight, that she was brave and gave us courage.
On October 11, 2010 I rode the Virginia Creeper Trail on a lovely blue cruiser, with my dear, sweet family. I hadn't taken a real bike ride in 40 years, but that day I rode 17 miles in the most incredible beauty. Beauty that leaves you breathless, engulfed in the Creator's love!!
When the day ended, waiting for me were the words .... "Rita passed away this morning".......
Today I am remembering and am so grateful for....
....Rita's faithful loving husband of 69 years who knew how to "raise hell" to take care of his girl
....Rita's caring daughter, my dear friend who has always respected and honored her parents, moving mountains to make their lives rich and good. An awesome woman!!
....my husband who loved Rita too, and saw visiting her as a privilege and joy...connecting with her in an amazing way.
....Rita showing me that all life is precious
....her singing I Love You Truly, It Had To Be You & Hark The Herald Angels Sing
....the day Rita told me about how she walked alone in the snow to school, and she was so afraid
....Lou crying at Christmas, wishing every elderly person had a loving family like Rita's
....a kind priest
....Rita's incredible creations made of shells from Sanibel
....holding hands in Mass
....Rita's hand on mine, saying "It will be alright" as we sat outside on the bench- a word from God
....the last day Rita tried to say her rosary, instead said the Pledge of Allegiance
....her thousand mile days in the PCV walker
....how she liked to sit in the sunshine
....she never had bedsores
....Rita had few wrinkles at 90
....the way we sometimes laughed together
....the year I explained the meaning of the Easter holiday and Rita asked in horror if Jesus was okay now
....the young man from the singing group that spoke a blessing over Rita last Christmas
....when she winked at you
....the time she said "Be careful" when I said good-night.
....that there is no end to this list
Thank you LORD for,
....a day in VA when beauty reigned through sadness
....the comfort of the Milky Way
....that two young boys offered genuine consolation
....for a friend who knows suffering and walks with you in sadness
....for a desperately needed text that says I am remembered & loved on the day I say good-bye to my friend
....Your sweet presence at death
Rita, I never saw this picture of you! Frank says this is your engagement picture. He said he chased you for two years!! Wow....that sounds like you. I will treasure it. I want to remember you always as this youthful young woman, for in truth, it was how I knew you, full of beauty and spunk, in a body that just grew old. Yes, that is the girl I know and will always love! Goodbye Sweet Friend!