My Dearest Michelle.....
PLEASE WATCH THIS VIDEO BEFORE YOU READ THE BLOG.
My early 20’s were spent working in an “Assisted Living” home, which was just a fancy name for Nursing Home. I wish I could say that I came by the job honestly, but that isn’t quite how it happened. You see it was the result of my Dad helping friends move a house trailer. If you were around back then, well you remember what a sight it was to see a trailer house creeping down the main stretch strapped on the front of a hay wagon. As if that wasn’t enough of a sight, don’t forget to throw in the long haired hippy driving the pink Cadillac convertible blaring “Black Betty” while he drank an Old Milwaukee & played air guitar like it was an Olympic Sport.
It was just a typical Saturday morning around these parts. Nothing much to see here in small town U.S.A.
Regardless, once the task was finished and Dad had made it back to the homestead with friends in tow, the chatter began about the AMAZINGNESS that had just occurred! Since Dad had quit drinking YEARS ago he just stood and chuckled with his hands in his pockets while the others toasted their success with Peppermint Schnapps & shouts of a job well done. Looking across the yard at them you could tell, in that moment, life was good.
Dad called me over to have me tell him again, “WHAT IT WAS I HAD.” So I explained my condition and then John asked if I were interested in being the Medication Administrator where he worked. He informed me it would be full time, but no benefits. When he told me the pay, it was more than the other two jobs I was already working, and it was certainly hard to pass up. I told him I needed about a week to let my other jobs know, and I would call him when I was ready to come in if that was alright. He agreed and told me he was sorry about what was going on but we would work my schedule around treatment. I smiled and told him, “Thank You.” Then looked over at my Dad, who then nodded at me, which meant it was time for me to head for the house. So I said my Good-Bye’s, Nice to See You All’s, and headed in towards Momma’. I told her what had happened outside and she said, “Well God must have known it was just time for a change, and if they are willing to work around everything that is going on, well then that is even better. Time will tell if it is a good fit.”
The next week came and went faster than I could say the days out loud. Sunday afternoon I called the number John had given me and a woman answered. I told her who I was, she told me that she was looking forward to meeting me. She advised me to wear nursing scrubs and arrive for 9 am med count, but to come a little early since it was going to be a learning process. I thanked her and hung up the phone. “Nursing Scrubs?!? I didn’t own nursing scrubs. It was Sunday afternoon where was I going to find nursing scrubs?!” I thought to myself as I picked the phone up off the wall to call my Mom. She answered on the second ring as I rambled out sentences faster than she could reply. “Rebecca!” she said, “I mean it is Sunday, I don’t even think anything is open Mom,” I said. “Rebecca Dawn,” she said more loudly this time. “What am I even going to do? I am not even prepared,” I exclaimed, “REBECCA!” she yelled, “I am going to look ridiculous walking in there in street clothes Mom,” I said with panic in my voice. “REBECCA DAWN,” She yelled though the phone. “WHAT?!?!?” I yelled back. “They sell scrubs at Wal-Mart in the section near the pajamas by the fitting rooms,” She said. We sat in silence for a few seconds before I said, “Oh. Well, I better get up there and get some then. Thank You! I love you!” “I love you too! GOOD BYE!” she said as she hung up.
Crisis #1 had been averted, and I could still go to work in the AM.
I arrived the next morning to find that the other girl had called in sick, so it was me and my direct Supervisor and she was dealing with an extremely behavioral client so I was literally thrown into the med cart and told to, “GET AT IT! & FIGURE IT OUT AS YOU GO!” The residents knew the routine and those that could found their way down to the office. They were used to a rapid-fire exchange of paper cup with pills followed by water to wash them down and move on to the next person. I was NOT there yet.
I didn’t even know their names let alone their medications. I wasn’t just struggling, I was drowning and these old folks were getting crankier by the second! Luckily Bridgette came back to my rescue and within 30 seconds had keys flying into locks, drawers sliding open, and pills dropping into cups like some well-oiled machine. Within 10 minutes she had every single resident that had been in the hallway done and accounted for. Once she finished cleaning up she grabbed the cart and said, “Follow me!” “We walk and talk A LOT around here!” She said, “Someone always needs something, so you make sure you are NEVER far away from this cart unless I am here or another Med Admin is on duty. It does get easier, but you have to WANT for it to work. You will get your own system down. What works for me doesn’t work for everyone, and I can’t STAND the way some of the other girls do their meds, BUT it works for them. You have to practice when there is down time, LEARN where the meds are. THESE people are like children and THEY don’t WAIT well. READ THE BOOKS, FRONT TO BACK, AND LEARN ALL THE POLICIES! First and foremost get familiar with charts, faces, names, and learn which residents are DNR’s. Which 98% of them are, after all, they are all OLD. LEARN them – If John gets a phone call for an ambulance run in the middle of the night and the resident is a DNR you are going to wish you had remembered before you called! ALSO – John is my husband which means I also get the phone call. Catch my drift – LEARN THE DNR’S. GOT IT?!”
“Umm…got it, but what is a DNR? Like Department of Natural Resources?” I asked, She laughed as she shoved the cart around the corner, “No, it stands for Do NOT Resuscitate. As in DO NOT SAVE their lives. No CPR, No Paddles, No nothing. DNR. Got it?” “Got it!” I said. We spent the next 20 minutes passing out meds to bed ridden residents and those that just would rather have visitors to their room than come down to the office. As we passed rooms she would point out who knew all the gossip, who was in love, who wasn’t, who was cheating at Bingo, who was hiding food in their napkins and sneaking it into their rooms, and who was the quiet one of the bunch.
We had almost made it back to the office when she stopped in front of a room and pushed open the door and announced, “This one here is our PROBLEM CHILD. Don’t get close to him, he spits and sometimes he has been known to bite the staff. The further you stay away from him, the better.” My eyes widened as I peered around the doorjamb at a man sitting on the bed. His white hair was standing straight up, his shirt was buttoned wrong, his face was dirty with what looked like last night’s dinner, he had 5-day old scruff from not shaving, one side of his shirt tucked in his pants, one sock on, and his slippers were on the wrong feet. I remember thinking I had a 1 ½-year old daughter who could dress better.
I hadn’t noticed that Bridgette had stopped walking to let a wheelchair cross in front of her and I ran right into the back of her as the man on the bed let out an awful hiss in my direction. She wasn’t kidding, the further I stayed away, the better.
I spent the rest of the day reading through books, policies, procedures, learning drawers, meds, residents and their stories. All but 4 had DNR’s, which actually made it easier to remember. I memorized the ones that didn’t have them and their pictures. At dinner time I made sure to put names with faces and match them in case they had changed since their photos were taken. After dinner meds were completed and everyone was back in their rooms we did rounds again. My 1st day on the job and a resident passed away in her sleep during nap after dinner. So I learned how to complete that paperwork should the need ever arise again, which I was told it most likely would.
Three weeks had come and gone by pretty quickly. I was settling into my position rather well and had even picked up the pace and settled into my own routine which was working beautifully. I was saving treatment days for my days off so that I wasn’t burning work time. John had settled on letting me work 4 – 10’s so that I would have 3 days off to re-coop before coming back to work.
I was walking the halls checking on residents when the smell of urine overtook me and I was instantly ill. I darted into a room and grabbed the garbage can at my feet and immediately emptied the contents of my stomach into it. I was still dry heaving when I heard a voice from across the room say, “Rough Night Little One?” I looked up from the garbage can to see, “The PROBLEM CHILD” sitting on his bed. “Actually no.” I replied “Well are you pregnant?” he asked, “I highly doubt that.” I said with a chuckle, “I am really sorry, I will get this cleaned up. I have been having a rough year!”
He stood up from the bed, his voice lowered as he said, “You’re the one they keep talking about. I can hear them down the hall at night talking about how sick you are. You get treatment on your days off, and you also have a small daughter. A year and ½ old is what I heard anyway.”
I hugged the garbage can a little tighter as he got closer. He stopped at the sink, wet a washcloth, and rung it out before continuing over to me. “It is clean, I haven’t used it.” He said as he pointed towards his face and hair.
I reached out and took it from his hand, “Thank you.” I said, “What is your story anyway?” He reached up and made a swirling motion near his head and said, “Apparently things aren’t right in my head.” He rolled his eyes and continued, “Nothing as drastic as this though. You have it WAY worse than me friend. My name is Michael.” I looked back at him, “Rebecca,” I said.
He reached into his dresser drawer and pulled out a package. He smiled as he crossed slowly back over the room. “It isn’t much, but it always helped me with the taste.” I looked down to see a package of Fisherman’s Friend in his palm. I reached out and took the package from him, carefully scooped one out, and popped it in my mouth. There was no denying their potency! He certainly wasn’t kidding, they definitely did the trick in getting rid of the taste in your mouth. Kind of a twofer if you will.
I pulled the bag from his garbage can and put a new one in. Once I finished cleaning up my mess I turned to look at Michael. He was just as much of a mess right that moment as he was the first time I saw him. So I asked him, “Do you think we might clean YOU up a little?” He looked over at me, smoothed his sweater, looked down at his slippers and said, “I can’t see why not.” So I got into his drawers and pulled out clean clothes and set them on the bed for him. When I was finished I said, “I will stand outside the door, you just open it up when you are ready for me to come back in and help you ok?” He nodded and I closed the door behind me. He was in there for a good 10-15 minutes before the door handle jiggled and he opened the door.
Standing before me was a pretty well put together older gentleman who needed nothing more than a shave. His clothes were clean, his face was washed, his hair was combed, and he actually had a smile on his face. “I clean up pretty good don’t I, Rebecca?” he asked with a smile on his face. “That you certainly do Michael,” I replied with a smile as big as his. We were fast friends Michael and I. From that day forward I made sure he bathed, dressed in clean clothes and took care of himself. In return, he made sure to have a place for me to go if I needed to “get rid of my lunch” or just breath through it.
In the two years that I was at the Manor even though we were never supposed to have favorites, he certainly became mine. Once Thanksgiving came and went I stopped to see John in his office to ask if I could have a contact number for Michael’s family. No one had come to visit him the entire time I had been working there, and I wanted to call and update them on how well he had been doing.
John informed me that there wasn’t a contact number listed for Michael’s family and that sometimes that happens. He told me to just wait it out and that maybe by Christmas time someone would come. I knew there HAD to be a family somewhere since once a week for an entire year Michael had me write a letter to someone that meant something to him. Every Sunday after lunch I would go down after med distribution and sit while he told me what to write. The letters always began the same way; My Dearest Michelle – So there was SOMEONE out there that knew and loved this man. WHY weren’t they coming to see him?
Once we finished with the letter, he would pull a slip of paper out of his wallet and ask me to dial the number for him. I would wait until the first ring before slipping out of the room to let him have some privacy. When he was finished with his phone call he would come down the hall to tell me it was a good one, and that he would see me later.
I only asked him once who he was calling. He winked at me and told me it was his bookie. I rolled my eyes as I walked out the door and told him to bet double on black. That was the same day he asked me if it would be ok if Mickayla and I came back after work and watched a movie in his room with him. I told him that was a splendid idea and that we would for SURE be there!
After work, I gathered up Mickayla and told her to pick a movie. She immediately asked if we were going to have, “otcorn?” I smiled, “That is a great idea! Let’s bring some popcorn!” So we gathered up our goodies and headed back towards the Manor. Turns out she had picked - A Land Before Time – (Ducky) Ucky was her favorite.
(*All Photos and Movie Rights mentioning The Land Before Time & any characters belong to Universal Studios Animated Films*)
When we walked in Michael said, “Hello Sweet Girl! How are you?” To which Mickayla replied, “Me Meeshka, I’m big girl now. I have otcorn & Ucky!” she said with a big smile on her face as she held up the movie for him to see. “Me Meeshka?” said Micheal, Mickayla set all her goodies on the floor and pointed to her belly and said, “No Willy (Silly) MEEEEEEEE Meeshka! ME Willy!” Then the both busted out in laughter! “Well You Meeshka Willy, I am Mr. Mike. Nice to Meet You!” said Michael. Mickayla looked at me, pointed at him and said, “He Mr. Mike Momma’!” I smiled and said, “Yes, that is Mr. Mike Meeshka.” I smiled at “Mr. Mike” and popped the movie in knowing that he would be called NOTHING else from that day forth.
It wasn’t far into the movie when Mr. Mike started laughing to himself. I looked over at him and asked, “What is so funny over there?” He looked at me and replied, “Little Foot.” I smiled and said, “Yeah, it’s a dinosaur in the movie?” To which he replies, “OOOHHH no it’s not, that is what I am calling you from now on! LITTLE FOOT!” as he pointed towards my feet. I rolled my eyes at him and said, “Well that is fair since you are now “Mr. Mike!” We both let out a chuckle and a tiny little princess turns, puts her finger to her lips and says, “Shhh, I watching this!”
Mickayla became a pretty frequent visitor around the Manor after that. She was so little, so cute, and spoke so well that the residents LOVED having her around. Other than Movie time with Mr. Mike, her favorite event was Bingo. Even when the child wouldn’t win, she WOULD win. The residents would give her everything from socks to teddy bears, candy, figurines, denture cream, Vick's vap-o-rub and once she even won travel mouthwash. My favorite prize she ever won was a Penguin that said, I LOVE YOU with a heart on its belly.
She presented it to Mr. Mike the very next time we had a movie night. She was SO proud to be giving him a gift that meant so much to her. In turn, it meant equally as much to him and sat on his nightstand where he could see it clearly from his bed. One morning as he was getting ready and he had finished with his shave he said, “Little Foot, if anything ever happens to me promise you will take that home with you ok?” He nodded over to the penguin on his nightstand. I looked over at it, smiled and said, “Well nothing is going to happen to you Mr. Mike so it can stay right there for now!”
I went about my day and just before I was slated to leave one of the other med admin’s called in. Bridgette was sick and there wasn’t anyone else to cover so I said I would cover the shift. It meant being on with the new aide Ashley. She was pregnant and did everything REALLY slow. So it meant I would also have to pick up the pace and help the other aides as well. Dinner came and went and I was doing the after dinner med rounds when I came to Mr. Mike’s room. His light was off and he was already in bed. I stopped my cart, knocked and pushed open his door and walked in. “Mr. Mike, it's early, are you feeling ok?” I asked as I walked in and turned on the light. He was in bed and appeared to be sleeping.
I walked over to his bed and touched his hand, “Mr. Mike?” I said, looking down at his chest realizing he wasn’t breathing. I immediately felt for a pulse, Was it there? Was that it? It's Weak, but I think he has one. I started screaming, “HELP! I NEED HELP NOW!” as I ripped open the shirt of his favorite pajamas to start CPR.
I was moving pillows and scrambling for footing when Ashley came into the room. “Call 911 now!” I said, She just stood there looking at me and then said, “He’s a DNR Rebecca, we aren’t supposed to call for DNR’s.” “DAMNIT ASHLEY JUST CALL THEM NOW!” I screamed, it must have scared her because she jumped and scurried from the room as I started chest compressions on Mr. Mike.
I hadn’t noticed until tears started hitting my hands and I was saying out loud, “You can’t do this Mr. Mike, we need to find Michelle. You can’t leave here yet! You can’t do this! You need to come back!” that other resident’s had started to gather in the hallway.
I was still performing CPR on him when I heard the sirens approaching, it meant that help would be here soon. My tiny 86 pound body was getting TIRED and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could hold on doing this. As the paramedics entered the room Mr. Mike took a HUGE breath in, immediately I let out a sob and collapsed to the floor.
One of the paramedics and I had gone to college together, he helped me back up and said, “It's ok Beckie, we got him now. He will be ok. Let us handle this. You did good Beckie! You did good!” I looked at him with tears streaming down my face and said, “He’s a DNR. I wasn’t supposed to save him.” His eyes widened as he looked from me to Mr. Mike and he said, “Well, life happens Beck, plead the 5th in court if and when they ask. Tell them you forgot. I will keep you posted, but I got to go.”
The moments after were hectic, residents chattering, whispering to one another and pointing fingers, aides wide-eyed as the phones started blowing up with phone calls from John. I finished cleaning up Mr. Mike's room, and I was pushing the med cart back to the office in just enough time to see John’s car fly into the front parking lot and screech to a halt.
He stormed in past the med office, and down the hall to his office without even looking in. Bridgette, who was supposed to be sick strolled into the med office and stuck a pink painted nail in my face as she said, “You ARE IN SOOOOOOOO MUCH TROUBLE LITTLE GIRL, YOU HAVE NO IDEA!” Immediately my blood was boiling, not even my parents talked to me that way. I was just getting ready to say something back to her when John yelled down the hall, “REBECCA IN MY OFFICE NOW!”
I looked at Bridgette and the other aides standing in the office, yanked the med office door open so hard it slammed against the wall shaking the entire office. I walked out into the hallway, looked down at Ron’s office, back at the med office, directly at Bridgette and KICKED the front door of the Manor open as hard as I could as I walked out.
I was half way across the front parking lot to my car when John made it out the front door. “WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?” he yelled at me “I PLEAD THE 5TH!” I yelled back. “You can’t plead the 5th Rebecca, we aren’t in court! Talk to me, what the hell happened in there?” he asked, “I did what I had to John, that is what happened,” I replied. “Rebecca, he has a DNR, his family could sue the manor, or you, or who knows what,” He said.
I stopped dead in my tracks and turned around to face him, “WHAT FAMILY JOHN? YOU MEAN THE FAMILY THAT NEVER COMES TO SEE HIM? HUH? THAT FAMILY?! ALMOST 2 YEARS JOHN! THAT IS HOW LONG I HAVE BEEN HERE AND NOT ONCE HAVE I EVER SEEN A FAMILY MEMBER OF HIS WALK INTO THIS PLACE TO SEE HIM! HE DOESN’T GET MAIL OR INCOMING PHONE CALLS, AND HE HAS CERTAINLY NEVER HAD A VISITOR! YOU KNOW WHAT HE HAS JOHN? ME, ME AND MICKAYLA, AND A BOX FULL OF LETTERS IN HIS CLOSET ADDRESSED TO SOMEONE NAMED MICHELLE! SOMEONE OUT THERE LOVES THAT MAN AND NO ONE DESERVES TO DIE ALONE JOHN! NO ONE!” I screamed at him “I won’t give up finding his family John and if you won’t help me I will do it myself,” I finished in a whisper.
“You are way to close this Beckie,” He said. “Do you understand how many policies, procedures and frankly laws you have broken? Technically I am supposed to report you, you do understand that right?” “John, you do whatever it is you have to do. I made my choice, and I will live with it. I will NOT let that man die ALONE. No one deserves that John, and maybe you aren’t close enough to see that. One day you are going to look back and I hope you can LIVE WITH THE CHOICES you made running this place,” I said shaking my head. “GO HOME & get some rest, Beckie. We will discuss this more when clear heads can prevail,” He said.
I turned to go to my car only to find every resident and every staff member standing in the lobby watching the whole entire argument between John and I transpire. I was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, and all I wanted to do was go home and sleep. The next morning I woke to find a message on my answering machine from John. He stated that Mr. Mike was stable and doing well. That if his condition continued he would be released by the following afternoon back to the Manor. He advised me to enjoy my time off, clear my head, and come back and see Mr. Mike when I was well rested. I was supposed to leave for Grand Rapids that morning for treatment, I chose not to go.
Upon returning to the Manor I went immediately to see Mr. Mike. He was in bed resting. He smiled when I entered his room. His voice was quiet as he spoke to me. “Little Foot you could have got in some serious trouble!” he said, “I know Mr. Mike, but I just didn’t think it was time just yet,” I said choking back tears. “You do know that God is going to take me home when he is ready don’t you Little Foot?” he asked “I know Mr. Mike. Believe me, I know,” I said.
In between work, Mickayla, and my free time I spent most of it at Mr. Mike’s side. We talked a lot about heaven, and in his final 3 weeks, he had me read scripture to him just as he had every Sunday after we wrote Michelle. Even in his final letters to her he never once spoke of leaving this earth, just his love & admiration for her. How she would ALWAYS have a piece of his heart and how eternally grateful he was for her being gifted into his life.
The week before Mr. Mike went into the “Deep Sleep” Mickayla made her last visit to see him. It was the most active I had seen him in over a month. He smiled, laughed, and they watched Blues Clues together. Before she left she held out her arms and said, “Up Momma’, I want UP to see Mr. Mike.” I picked her up and sat her on the bed and she started singing to Mr. Mike, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.” He smiled ear to ear and said, “Ahhh…My Meeshka, how joyous it was to have known and loved you.” “I wuv you toooo Mr. Mike,” she replied with a giggle.
It was the last time Mickayla would see him alive.
Two days later as I sat reading to him, he reached his hand out to me, took my hand and said, “I’m tired Little Foot. So very, very tired.” “I know Mr. Mike and you don’t have to keep fighting anymore. It's ok to sleep now,” I replied. “Rebecca, I love you more than blueberry pancakes,” He said. “I love you more than cherry cheesecake Mr. Mike,” I replied choking back a sob. He squeezed my hand and closed his eyes and went to sleep.
He never woke again after that day.
I sat with him for another 4 days, and on the 4th day, I was shaken awake to find my family doctor, Dr. Graham on a knee in front of me.
“Rebecca, you haven’t been to treatment in over a month. The Chief called me to find out why you haven’t been back down to Grand Rapids to finish your treatment,” He said. I looked over at Mr. Mike sleeping, his chest was still moving up and down. I looked over Dr. Graham’s shoulder to see John standing in the doorway as the Doc continued, “Beck, your Mom was in my office the other day, and she is SCARED to death she is going to lose you. That you are slipping away, and her baby is dying. You are SO close to beating this, you can’t just GIVE UP. You have to finish this. You can’t just walk away.”
He stood up in front of me and pointed to Mr. Mike in bed, “He lived a life, and a full one. You are much too young to stop living because you are fighting for someone who’s time is clearly coming to an end. You have a baby girl that needs you, a mother that won’t stop worrying about you and an entire staff waiting in Grand Rapids for you. We have ALL been on this journey with you from the start kiddo’ and I want to see you finish it, I want to be there to see you BEAT this. YOU NEED TO GO TO TREATMENT, YOU NEED TO FINISH CHEMO REBECCA.”
I took a deep breath in, looked at Mr. Mike, then to John and said, “If he promises to call his family I will go.” John looked at me and replied, “They are already en route from New York. They will be here by early morning tomorrow morning. They are coming in on the red eye and driving up from Detroit.” I looked from Mr. Mike to John, to Dr. Graham and said, “Fine I will go. When do I leave?” Dr. Graham said, “You leave NOW, your ride is outside.” I looked at both of them standing there, and down at Mr. Mike. “Give me a minute,” I asked.
They both left the room as I gathered up my things. I took Mr. Mike’s hand as I said, “Well I guess I have to go be responsible Mr. Mike. I finally got John to get your family here. I just wish it didn’t have to be this way. Please just hang in there a little while longer, they will be here soon. I know your tired Mr. Mike, but PLEASE just hang in there until they get here. Don’t give up until they are here. Meeshka and I love you today and for always. Don’t forget us when you earn your wings ok? I love you more than you could ever know!” I choked out as I hugged him and walked out of his room.
I never saw him alive again.
I was loading up to leave and asked John to PLEASE call me should something happen. He promised he would, and I watched in the mirror as the Manor disappeared. With tears streaming down my face I settled in for our long ride to Grand Rapids. I asked God to watch over Mr. Mike and to keep him safe until his family could arrive. God knew that I was also tired, and I drifted off to sleep shortly after.
I woke for a short time as we refilled for gas but then drifted back to sleep until we arrived in Grand Rapids at the hospital. Dillon was waiting for me when I arrived with a wheelchair and whisked me straight up to our floor. I had paperwork to fill out before we could get started, and because I had skipped treatments, well it meant more blood work to be done.
So we waited. I filled Dillon in on what had been happening, and he filled me in on life in his end of the world. We were in full on belly laughter when a nurse came in and said, “Rebecca it is time to go. Are you ready?” I remember looking at her, then at D and saying, “Yeah, I’ve never been more ready in all of my life.”
It was just after 9:30 in the morning when we got into my treatment room. Just as we always did, Dillon and I held hands and prayed as the nurses prepared everything. We had just finished praying when Amber my nurse came in and said, “I am so sorry, I have a family emergency and have to take a phone call. I can get another nurse if you don’t want to wait.” I looked at her and smiled, “It's ok, I will wait,” I said. She had been my nurse right from the beginning, and I didn’t want anyone else.
A short time later she returned to inform us her daughter had fallen at school and needed a band-aid. Nothing major, but the school HAD to call. She asked if I was ready to start, with a small smile I said, “Yes.” I turned to watch Dillon as she did what she needed to do, he was making shadow puppets to make me laugh. It was working, he was certainly distracting me.
I closed my eyes, took a breath in, and held it.
THIS WAS IT, if everything went well I would NEVER have to come back here again. Amber had started the IV, I could feel the coldness of the solution as it entered my arm. I let a breath out and opened my eyes to find Dillon standing in front of me. He was smiling as he said, “This is it Kid, last one. Just one more and it is all over. We got this!” I smiled and said, “Yes, yes we do. I’m tired D, very tired.” “Sleep Kid, we don’t have anything but time now. Get some rest,” He replied.
So I closed my eyes and listened to the hum of the machines in the background as I drifted off to sleep. I don't know how long it was before I heard it, “Little Foot, I made it! I’m home! I just wanted you to know that I made it home! Little Foot can you hear me? I made it home!” said Mr. Mike, seconds later I could feel a hand on my shoulder and Dillon’s voice saying, “Kid you gotta’ wake up there is someone calling for you.”
I wiped the sleep from my eyes as I reached up and took the phone. “Hello.” I said sleepily “Rebecca, it's John. I just called because, well you asked me to call if something happened. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Mr. Mike passed in his sleep this morning Beckie,” He said. I sat up in my bed but was immediately restricted by my IV tubes from going any further. I looked over at Dillon as I said, “What time, when did it happen? Please tell me his family made it John? They made it didn’t they?” I asked. “Yes they arrived very early this morning, and they were here with him as he took his last breath. It happened at 10:07 am. I’m real sorry Beckie. I know how much he meant to you. Listen his family plans to stay in the area until you return. They would like to meet you when you are feeling up to it,” He said.
I took a sharp breath in and said, “Ok I will call you when I am home. Thank you for letting me know. I will talk to you soon.” I turned to Dillon and informed him of what had happened. He immediately got up from his chair and rushed out of the room. He returned with Amber who was holding my chart and trying to explain herself.
“I’m so sorry, I know we were late this morning. It is not like me to not be on time and ready,” She said. “No, that isn’t it at all, I just want to know the precise time you charted her starting treatment this morning,” said Dillon. “Umm…it looks like we got started this morning around 10:07 am,” replied Amber looking back and forth at us with a confused look on her face.
Dillon and I just looked at one another in complete disbelief, and he immediately sat down in his chair. “Whoa Kid! That can’t even be by chance. Your last treatment to save your life starts at the very moment he was taking his last breath?” he said looking at me. “Yeah, isn’t that something,” I responded as I sat back against the pillows on my bed and looked out the window.
It was a long ride home knowing what was waiting for me when I arrived. I wasn’t sure what his family was going to say to me, and frankly, I was a tad terrified. I could have waited another day or so, but I REALLY wanted to know WHY no one had come to see Mr. Mike. So I called John to let him know I had arrived home and could be there within the hour. Then I showered, got dressed and made my way towards the Manor.
When I arrived John met me outside his office and said, “Listen, before we go in there I want you to understand that you are going to hear some things that are going to upset you. Try to remain calm and understand that all of this was in motion before you EVER worked here. LISTEN before you get upset OK?” I looked up at him confused and said, “Sure, ok.” as we walked into his office.
A woman was sitting in a chair in front of his desk waiting. She stood as we entered the room. “Little Foot.” she whispered, I turned to look at John as she stretched a hand towards me and said, “Hi, it is so nice to finally meet you. I have heard SO much about you. I’m Michelle, Michael’s daughter.” My jaw hit the floor. I looked at John. I instantly felt woozy. I struggled to find a seat as I reached out to shake her hand. I said, “You will have to excuse me, I am a little confused and still reeling from everything. It is nice to meet you.”
She smiled and said, “I have heard so much about you Rebecca. I feel like I already know you. My father cared for you and your daughter deeply. Thank You for being there for him all this time. It was hard letting him make the decision to come here. We respected his wishes as much as we possibly could, but I found it ludicrous that he chose to cut ties with the family. Even more irresponsible when he signed over Power of Attorney of all his medical choices to John & the home.”
I turned to look at John and knew immediately that he knew what I was thinking. It was the ONLY reason I wasn’t in trouble for the DNR incident. He looked down at the file on his desk as Michelle continued, “I love my father VERY much, but his tendencies could be a tad irrational at times. After my mother was killed by a drunk driver he never really was the same. My mother Rosemary couldn’t have children of her own, I was adopted as a baby, and as a result, I am an only child to them both. He fought really hard the 1st time when my mother was alive, it was like he had something worth fighting for. When we found out it had aggressively returned 3 years ago he made the decision to come here and cut ties with the family. He immediately gave up, refused treatment, and told us that he was coming here to live out his final days in seclusion. It was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard, but since he was of sound mind and body at the time there really was no stopping him. We had vacationed here when I was a child, it was one of my mother's favorite vacation spots. I presume it is the very reason he chose it. However, it wasn’t near any hospital where he could get treatment should he change his mind. I thought he would, I really thought he would wake up one morning and just decide that life was worth living! I honestly thought he would put up a fight and COME HOME. It never happened. So I just want to Thank You for being so kind to him the entire time he was here. He wasn’t an easy man to get along with from what I understand,” She said.
I looked at her and asked, “I guess I am confused about how your father was supposed to fight anything? He had Alzheimer’s, so why would he get treatment? There isn’t a cure for that." Michelle sat straight up in her chair, looked at me, and said, “Darling who told you that? No, no, no, my father was of sound mind and probably right to his last breath. You are sorely mistaken, dear. My father died of Prostate Cancer.” “That’s not possible,” I whispered as I looked across the desk at John. The expression on his face told the truth as tears started streaming down my face. “That’s not possible,” I said again only louder. “I assure you it is Rebecca. My father came here to die. He cut all ties of communication with his family, and only called the Lake House once a week to leave a detailed message on the answering machine. None of us were EVER to answer or he would hang up. It got to the point that we would all have family dinner each week just so that we could all be there to hear his voice and his update,” She replied with a smile on her face.
“His bookie,” I said as I looked at her. She laughed, “Yes, that sounds like my father, and yet he never gambled a day in his life. He was most certainly calling the Lake House.” I took a deep breath in trying to process everything I had just heard. I was overwhelmed. None of it made any sense, and I was too nauseous to be angry at the moment.
“I wanted to tell you Thank You in person, I owed that to you. You took excellent care of my father once you got here. When we cleaned out his room I found a box of letters written to me. John informed me that you had been writing them for my father since you started here. Thank You. It means the world to me to have something to take away from this. A sense of peace maybe; I suppose I am not really sure. I have kept all the tapes from the answering machine. I would change it out weekly with a new one so we would always have them. I thought then it would be the only memory I would have of him. So thank you for the letters, I look forward to reading them and sharing them with my family. I have to get going. My family and I need to get on the road if we are going to make our flight home,” Michelle said.
John stood from behind his desk, which in turn prompted me to stand. Michelle reached out and embraced me, and I hugged her back. When we released I immediately sat back down and she and John shook hands and he walked her out. I sat looking at my hands folded in my lap trying to make sense of what had just happened when John returned and sat down in front of me at his desk. I looked up at him waiting for him to say something. Instead, he slid a file across the desk at me. I looked down at it and then back at John as tears started to stream down my face. “Did you know?” I asked. “Beckie, I wanted to tell you. Believe me, I did, but I could not. Everything you need to know is in that file. Take as much time as you need, I will be down with the residents when you are finished. Just let me know when you are done okay?” he replied. I shook my head yes at him as he stood to leave the room.
I reached up to open the file and immediately a sob released from me. Everything I thought I knew for the past two years was, in fact, a lie, and the cold hard truth was within the file folder in front of me. I wasn’t entirely sure I was prepared for what I was about to find. I took a sharp breath in, closed my eyes, and opened the folder. Staring back at me was an envelope. Written in John’s handwriting on the front was, My Dearest Little Foot, I ran my fingers over the letters on the front of the envelope as I pulled it from the file. I replaced the folder on the desk as I sat the envelope in my lap. I said a prayer as I opened it.
It was dated two months prior.
My Dearest Little Foot,
There are a 1000 things I wanted to say, and even more times than that when I wanted to tell you the truth. At the end of the day, the fact remains that if I had you would have fought me tooth and nail to get treatment. I truly believe you missed your calling as a lawyer Little Foot, (even as I say this John is shaking his head YES!) since you can argue your point about something you are passionate about until a person has no choice BUT to believe in it! I hope you know that I never hid anything from you to hurt you or to try and betray you. I made a choice to come here and live out my final days ALONE. I never expected God to send me someone that would make me not only question my faith but bring me closer to him before it was all said and done. People like you are very rare Little Foot. Not everyone will be as lucky or blessed to be able to know you like I do. You weren’t made to appeal to every type of person on this planet Little Foot, only to the ones that will NEED you and those that can relate to you. Remember that as the years pass you by. You have a passion for life that reminds me so much of my Rosemary, NEVER EVER lose that part of yourself.
I want to tell you the same thing I would tell my Michelle growing up. God loves you more than I ever could have. More than ANYONE can. Never forget that when and if you decide to start dating again. One day you will find someone that adores you. Hopefully, you also adore him back equally as much. Love, REAL, love comes along once in a lifetime Little Foot, and it isn’t hard to know what you are looking for if you just GIVE IT A CHANCE. PRAY for your partner now. God is busy creating him so that when the time is right, he can reveal him. When he does show himself, approach love the same way you do with cooking, with reckless abandon.
Love him through the good times, embrace him during the bad ones, write him often during the moments when you can’t be together, cherish ALL the memories you make and most of all NEVER GIVE UP. TRUE LOVE is felt, right to your soul, it isn’t something that just goes away. Even after the person isn’t by your side anymore, your SOUL will still continue to search for them. Don’t ever give up on finding that. Always BELIEVE that it is possible. Never go out looking for it, let it come and find you. Trust that the Big Man upstairs has it figured out and will make it possible when it is meant to be. That is how I ended up finding my Rosemary, God revealed her to me when I was ready to appreciate her being in my life.
TRUST that you are doing a good job Little Foot. You are a young mom, but you are a GOOD mom. You are going to make mistakes, but don’t you dare EVER stop fighting for My Meeshka or any children you may have in the future. They are a rare gift no matter how they may come to you, God’s Will is ALWAYS going to find a way. Never forget that.
You both brought so much joy to my life! I hope that you know, trust, and believe that your presence in my life had a purpose. I spent the last few years of my life truly LIVING even though I came here with full intentions of dying alone. You filled my cup Little Foot, and then you opened up your life and let me know Mickayla. My cup then overflowed, and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
If you are reading this it means that I am with my Rosemary again, have no doubts about where I went when I left this earth Little Foot. Keep your relationship with the Lord a strong one Little Foot, I want to see you again someday!
Should you fall from Grace as we sometimes do, I know you will find your way back!
Until we meet again Little Foot, live life to the ABSOLUTE fullest and not an ounce less!
I love you more than blueberry pancakes,
I folded the letter back up and stuck it in the envelope it had come from. He knew 2 months prior his time was nearing, and he took the time to make sure to have John write to me. That meant something, not an opportunity that everyone in this life was given.
I pushed the folder back across the desk, I had everything I needed. I wrote my letter of resignation, and placed it on the top of the folder before I walked out of John’s office. I knew after that moment that my time at the Manor had come to an end. I walked out of there that day without a single regret for anything I had done while employed there. I still feel that way to this very day. Losing Mr. Mike showed me that sometimes everything we see is not, in fact, the truth. The people that we know, the ones that we trust, who we think they are, sometimes we just REALLY don’t know them.
We KNOW what sides of people they choose to show the world. We rarely know the ENTIRE truth about who a person really is. We hide parts of ourselves for fear of how others are going to feel. We dilute certain things for people so we don’t hurt their feelings or bruise their egos.
I walked out of there that day but not before making a deal with myself that I would NEVER change a single thing about who I was. Over the years I have grown, life has happened along the way and ultimately this is one of those MAJOR events that literally shaped me into the woman I am today.
It is something that I rarely, if ever talked about, and therefore it was a part of me that few knew anything about. A part of me hidden from the world. A part of me that I chose to keep quiet about for fear that if I spoke about it, the memories that were there would just disappear. When you finally open yourself up to tell certain parts of your life, it gives you a sense of vulnerability. One that you aren’t sure how to deal with, and it takes time to process that sometimes you aren’t the ONLY one that has gone through an event like this.
At first, it was HARD to sit down and write this, most nights I would just cry and walk away. It wasn’t a place or memory I was happy revisiting. In the end, I found peace in finally telling my story, the WHOLE story about it. I could BREATH for the first time in a lot of years. I didn’t feel like I was carrying a burden no one knew anything about. Sometimes letting go of the very thing that makes your soul weary is the most refreshing thing you can do for yourself.
That is my wish for each of you, that you find peace in letting the parts of your life that you continue to carry with you go. The ones that slow you down and make you feel like you are dragging your feet. The ones that you have buried DEEP and never expected to show to anyone.
They helped define and shape you into who you are. Like my brilliant cousin Lacey once told me, it is ok to visit those times and places, just don’t ever get stuck and stay there. Use them as a reminder of just how far you have come and why you should never, ever go back.
Mr. Mike will ALWAYS be the reason that sometimes you catch me randomly wearing a white V-Neck T-shirt, sometimes I need to slip into one just to shift myself back to center or to a time not so long ago when life was less complicated. The reason that I am NEVER without Fisherman’s Friend on my person, purse, or vehicle to this day. Why I still can’t bear to sit through a helping of Cherry Cheesecake without getting choked up, and why I rarely sit through The Land Before Time without slipping away to fold laundry or find something to busy my mind.
I can’t hear the phrase “Little Foot” without getting a lump in my throat, or sit at my Momma’s Kitchen Table when she makes blueberry pancakes without hearing Mr. Mike’s laughter in the distance. I would love to tell you that “Time Heals All Wounds” but that just isn’t the case. It numbs the pain, dulls the ache, and often leaves you with a sense of longing.
Looking back now I can honestly tell you that had I REALLY looked outside the box I would have seen the signs that were right in front of me. Hindsight is often 20/20 in situations such as mine. God knew what he was doing, as he ALWAYS does! I have NO doubts that Mr. Mike will be waiting for me when I finally arrive at Heaven’s Gate, and THAT is something I can look forward to!
We all struggle, we all fight, and most of all we all suffer in one way or another. You NEVER REALLY know what a person is going through or what they have experienced or gone through in their life to get to where they are at the very moment they finally cross your path. LOVE AND EMBRACE each person instead of judging them and you will see just how quickly life changes.
I loved and embraced the “Problem Child” of the Manor, and with little to no certainty that I would even survive the treatments that I was going through at the time, I LOVED THE LIFE that I had in front of me, and IT LOVED ME RIGHT BACK.
That is my advice for all of you….be GRATEFUL for the life you have been given. COUNT what blessings you do have, and LOVE & EMBRACE every single person that you encounter.
NO MATTER WHAT THEIR STORY IS OR HOW THEIR JOURNEY HAPPENED TO CROSS YOUR PATH!
Love one another as I have loved you. – John 13:34