Last Saturday was a tough day for Sherryl. She began to feel "weird" early afternoon and, a few hours later, she wouldn't wake when one of us gently touched her shoulder and called her name. We were scared because we didn't think Sherryl was going to make it through the night. A little after 9:00pm, we called Hospice. We were told a nurse would arrive at the house in about 45 minutes. As promised, the nurse arrived at the door soon after our call: a male with a pleasant smile. We introduced ourselves to him before taking him back to Sherryl's bedroom. And he introduced himself to us. "My name is Bruce," he said. Not a common name, Bruce was our father's first name, too.
Once in the bedroom, Bruce stood over Sherryl, got her to respond to him, then answered our questions and gave his advice. "Follow her lead," he told us. "Continue to do what you're doing so she is comfortable." And so we did. Comfort care.
Sherryl made it through the night and early Sunday, Nadine heard Sherryl calling her name loudly. Sherryl had spilled her cup of juice and needed help. She had the strength to reach for the cup, to try to take a sip, and then to shout Nadine's name -- quite a difference from not responding to us the night before. As late as this morning, Sherryl continues to have moments when she's nearly as chatty as she's ever been. Although her appetite has been close to nil, she enjoyed some applesauce yesterday and she continues to drink lots of liquids.
A different nurse from Hospice visited Sherryl today to assess and address medical needs. And then an aid visited Sherryl to help her with non-medical care. Sherryl felt relaxed and calm, and floated into another nap after being cared for by the aid. The aid had a cheerful demeanor, she was very tender, and her name was Ana. Our mother's name was Anna, too, with a minor difference in the way it was spelled.
And so, just as she was during the first months of her life, Sherryl has now been in the adept and compassionate care of Bruce and An(n)a. The circle of life. It's always there, and you don't need to look very far to find it.
Nadine and I cried together on the phone later Sunday morning. We were relieved that Sherryl had made it through the night and that some of her strength had returned. And we believe it wasn't a coincidence that a caring human being who had the same name as our father had joined us in our childhood home to help us with what we needed. Vulnerable little girls again, Daddy had arrived. "Mom and Dad are here," we sobbed on the phone. "They're coming to take their little girl, to help her find her way." And then, although it couldn't be farther from the truth but the notion was just absurd enough to lend much-needed comic relief to the moment, we began to laugh hysterically. "Sure, Sherryl gets the personal escort! They'd send a bus for us!"
For Dad, who sailed the oceans of this world, one of Sherryl's favorite songs.