Lunch with Agnes
While I do call Agnes often to see how see is doing and I also get updates from her Hospice nurse, I was not prepared with how much she has declined when I picked her up at her apartment complex to take her to lunch. I noticed over the last few weeks while talking to her over the phone, that she was getting confused over her schedule and even asking me what day it was. We had also planned to go to the aquarium here in Atlanta but she called me up to cancel, which was really not too surprising. For with her deepening weakness and confusion, visiting a place that is large and very noisy would be very difficult for her.
She looked nice when I picked her up. She is not traditional in her taste for clothes. They tend to be more like colorful robes than dresses and she looks good in them. She is also losing weight, not too noticeable, yet because I know her and I have not seen her for a few weeks, I did notice. Three weeks ago when I last saw her she was much stronger. This time I had to help her into the car and she was a little confused on how the seat belt worked. I noticed that she was also having more trouble breathing. She was not to clear on direction to the restaurant, but thankfully I knew the way and got there without incident. The restaurant is her favorite place in Decatur. It is small and the food is very good. I parked and helped her walk to the entrance. She is now very unstable on her feet and I doubt she can walk very far by herself without falling.
She was in a happy mood however and we had a good time. We started off with a dozen oysters each and then ordered our main course. We both got the same thing this time. Tilapia with plantain and rice and beans and I had hot tea, she ordered a diet coke. We talked about different things, her health of course but it was not the main thing. She conversed about her friends, her will and the monies that she was going to leave to her daughter. She plans also on sending me some addresses for people for me to notify when she dies, her daughter being one of them. They are still estranged and Agnes is too afraid to try to get back in touch, she fears more rejection. Emotionally she has had a very hard life and is very sensitive to negative response of any kind.
Since I paid for lunch last time, she insisted on paying for the meal, which I agreed. We will take turns paying. She used her credit card and when she was trying to figure out the tip she asked me if $55 dollars was a good tip. This shocked me, for her confusion was deeper than I thought. So I explained that $11 dollars was a good tip. Then she had trouble signing the slip, so I showed her where to sign and she could barely do that. I explained to the owner why the slip was so sloppy and she understood. Agnes did not really know she was confused at that time. So I figured that she was tired out and took her home. I walked her up to her apartment and one of the hospices nurses was there waiting for her. I asked Agnes’s permission to speak frankly with the nurse and she said yes. So I relayed how confused she was at the restaurant and her struggle with breathing. She now has portable oxygen, so next time when I come to take her out, I will come to the room and get her, making sure she has her tank in tow. As I was leaving, I saw her lay down in her bed and roll over and fall fast to sleep. For some reason this made me very sad and it stayed with me in my drive home. I also think this will be the last time we can have lunch out together.
She is alone; she really has no one close. One daughter her only family and they are not speaking. She does have an attorney friend who is also taking care of her. He does charge for certain services, but he does many others without charge. I talked with him and was truly happy that he is in the picture. I am going for a home visit this Sunday and felt bad about leaving Agnes since I promised that I would try to be there when her time came. She is living longer than her two months and this trip was planned a long time ago, sort of a family reunion of sorts. We had a long talk over the phone and he said that he has been journeying with the dying for over 30 years and if possible would be there for Agnes if she dies during my vacation.
The hospice people are very good and very easy to work with. I noticed her apartment is cleaner and I suppose that the hospice lady who comes in to do laundry has gone beyond her assigned tasks and helped clean Agnes’s apartment. In any case, it won’t be long now, all any of us can do is to simply try to be there for her and show her love and compassion.
The process of dying,
no denial possible,
is a no-man’s land,
an enlightenment of sorts
that no one wants,
is the killer of sharing.