Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rest In Peace

Our neighbor, Carol, died this weekend.  She was elderly, I'm guessing around 80.  She had lymphoma that spread to her heart.  The doctors could do nothing.

She elected to go into hospice about a week and a half before she died.  There, her family came and was with her as the staff made her as comfortable as possible.  She was both given the opportunity to say goodbye while also not lingering in that horrible stated of suspension between life and death that typifies the state of much of our end of life care.

She was one of those grand old New England ladies.  Her voice sounded like a cross between Katherine Hepburn and recent Jeff Bridges.  It had both lilt and gravel.  I most often saw her tooling around her immense lawn in a John Deere tractor that looked to be about 30 years old.  My wife recounts how she would see Carol jogging along at 6AM come rain or shine.  Once, Carol - who let us use her pool at our pleasure - asked her not to come down to the pool early in the morning because she tended to skinny dip then.

She was not especially fond of our dogs.  Our late chocolate lab tended to deposit waste materials on her lawn.  Luckily, the Hound of the Basketcase is a lady and evacuates her bowel deep in the woods.  But Carol once left a bag of feces on our porch with a note asked us to clean up after our dog.  I had to explain to her that the bag of feces was that of the neighborhood fox, given the large quantities of beetle carapaces and seed husks to be found within.  It was the only time I saw her blush.

I remember during last winter's snowmageddon her difficulty backing out of her long driveway.  Twice I had to dig and push her out.  Several weeks later she stopped by with a six pack of Stella Artois.  Every Christmas, we got a plate of cookies.

About our third year in the house, we were gone for the month of August.  When we got back it was still steamy and Things One and Two were yelling and screaming in the backyard as they fought over the hose.  She walked over and said, "Oh, I missed those sounds."  And she wasn't being ironic.  What to us had become the grating soundtrack of non-stop sibling combat was to her the exuberant noise of youth.

She outlived her first husband and the father of her children.  She remarried a doctor who is a nice guy and was also very generous.  They both let us dump our leaves and downed tree limbs on the back reaches of their lot.  Our property line is right off the back deck and they were always very solicitous of the baseball games and hammocks that crept over that line over the years.  If Dwight should sell the house, it could be tough, as we have been blessed with very generous neighbors.  In your life, you get to pick your friends, your spouse and to some degree you pick your co-workers, if you have some choice in where you work.  But you rarely pick your neighbors.  And by the time you get to know them, it's too late to do anything about it anyway.

Carol lived a long, rich life.  She had many grandchildren, she taught the cello until very recently.  She served on the historical district.  She rode that old John Deere tractor like a cowgirl riding the range.

I hope her last hours were filled with grace and love.  I hope all of ours are.

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