TO THE VERY END
On the 24th February 2017http://www.alzheimersfundraiserart.com/nursing-home/ I told you that I’d promised Alan I would stay with him to the very end – even when I made that promise I didn’t really comprehend my intention, to be there at his deathbed yes…….. but later I realized so much more.
Rashanee my Thai girlfriend had lost her husband a year before, also from Alzheimer’s, had no family and was intending to go to the Crematorium on her own. I told her I would be there to give her morale support, but I had to bring Alan with me, since I had no one I could leave him with. I had researched online to see what the Thai custom was, and discovered that flowers and a fruit basket were laid on the chest of the deceased. I’d every intention of going to the florist in the morning to get a bouquet of flowers, but Alan had other ideas. We were running late and in the end I walked around our garden and picked Roses, Hydrangea and Lavender and soon I had a beautiful bouquet. When we arrived at the Funeral Home, Jackie our other soul sister was there, we were asked to sign a document; I wasn’t quite sure what it was for, as I was busy concentrating on Alan.
Then it became apparent that Rashanee was going to witness the cremation, I had absolutely no idea what was involved – as we walked down the hallway, Rashanee and the Funeral Director in front, with Jackie one side of Alan and me the other, we were led into the furnace room. Her husband was laying in a coffin, and she laid our flowers on his chest and kissed him; then we watched as his body went into the oven. I was beyond mortified, Alan’s whole body went rigid and after the oven door closed we walked out again into the Lobby. Considering what we had just witnessed Alan remained remarkably calm. Outside in the parking lot I asked Rashanee what her plan was and she said she was just going back home, I suggested we all go back to our house so that we could sit in the garden and have some tea. I just couldn’t get the image out of my mind, I felt nauseous, the finality of it. I’d never seen or heard of such a thing, and actually doubted if it was even legal. We sat for a long time in a state of shock, surrounded by the tranquility of the garden drinking tea, and discussing what we had witnessed – it was a ceremony from a different culture. It took me a long time to get the image of the flames surrounding the coffin out of my head.
For some reason I have always preferred the idea of burial – must be the gardener in me. However, faced with the situation of needing to make a decision, and not really sure of my future plans; after Alan died, even though I had made the funeral arrangements, I had to go back to sign more papers. Sitting in the Office, I suddenly got chills up my spine ……….. somewhere in this building my dearest darling husband was laying in a coffin, in a cooler and I had left him all alone, I had already had his brain removed, what kind of a monster was I? I had broken my promise to him about being with him to the end. Out of nowhere, without a single thought or hesitation, I suddenly told the Funeral Director that I wanted a Witnessed Cremation and he asked if I was aware what that entailed – yes I did.
So when the date was set for Alan’s cremation, I did exactly the same thing, walked around our garden, picked Roses, Hydrangea and Lavender and created a beautiful bouquet. Alan always used to get cross with me, as I am a terrible time keeper, and often used to say “you will be late for your own funeral”. Here I was running late, rushing about and in the car on the way to the Funeral Home, I told him “I’m going to be late for your funeral” – I know he would have laughed. When I arrived, unbeknown to me, Jackie & Rashanee were sitting in the Lobby drinking coffee they were there to support me, but both said they couldn’t go in with me, they wanted to remember Alan laughing. So the Funeral Director escorted me down the hallway, I laid the bouquet on Alan’s chest, kissed him on the cheek and told him I loved him, and then I watched as the coffin went up the metal rollers, the door opened, I could see the flames and I watched as he was consumed by the fire. That for me, was final, he was gone, there was absolutely no doubt. I had done my best and kept my promise. I know many people can’t understand why I did this, even now I can’t explain my decision; but it gives absolute closure and I’m so pleased I did it.
I walked back into the Lobby, drank a very strong coffee, and then we walked outside into the air, where a mockingbird was sitting on their sign singing his little heart out. Alan’s soul was free, he had been released into the universe.
The girls were both going off doing other things, but we agreed we’d all get together in the evening. On my way home, I suddenly pulled into a jewelers and asked them to resize Alan’s wedding ring, so I could wear it on my hand. When I got back home, I got on my bicycle and rode as hard as I could for hours.
The girls came over in the evening with pizza and salad and we laughed as we reminisced. Now, all three of us were in the same boat – not just because we had lost our husbands, but because of the ravages of this deadly disease ………….. Alzheimer’s and Frontotemporal Dementia. We had all suffered differently, had different journeys, but here we were, three strong ladies determined to make the most out of life, and enjoy every blessed moment to the fullest.
I went to bed with Lucy & Lucky and sobbed my heart out.