Saturday, January 07, 2006

Requiem for Marion Fernand

It's been a long time since I've posted here. Well over a month, in fact. And a lot has happened in that time.

Since Thanksgiving, I have spent a lot of time shuttling back and forth between Northern Virginia and Fort Lauderdale, where my parents live. Where one still lives.

After a bittersweet visit at Thanksgiving, when I saw my mother visibly growing more frail by the day, I returned home only to find out that a week later she had contracted pneumonia. At that time, my husband and I just had a gut feeling that she was not going to recover from this.

I have never been a pessimist. Less so my husband. And it would always be a mistake to count my mom out. She had more heart and more fight than anybody I have ever known and had recovered from more adversity than many. But I had seen this situation happen to the elderly parents of other friends. Indeed, as this unfolded it reminded me so much of the mother of one of my husband's best friends who had similarly passed away from pneumonia. Husband and I both knew that it was usually pneumonia or another secondary opportunistic infection rather than the original disease that kills.

And so it was with my mom. She was hospitalized in early December. I went down to Florida to see her in the hospital. At that time, my father too had caught pneumonia. He had been caring for her since her stroke in May. That had entailed 24/7 care with the help of a home health care aide who came for only a few hours daily. The bulk of the responsibility had fallen on my 92 year old father. Sometimes he was getting up eight times a night to help my mother. And the strain finally caught up with him.

One night, while I was in Florida, I was on the phone with my husband and I began to cry, "I knew when I came down that I might be losing my mother but I think - I'm afraid - I may be losing my father too."

Fortunately, his infection was caught very early and a strong antibiotic cured it. Other than exhaustion, there was no underlying cause for his pneumonia. But my mom's health problems were simply beyond mere medication. In her case, the pneumonia was just one more deadly complication in a host of problems including the linger effects of the stroke and congestive heart failure.

While I was down there, my father and I placed my mom in hospice care. It was the best decision we both ever made and I cannot say enough good things about this wonderful organization. At some point, I will write more about them. Helping others to know about the incredibly compassionate work that they do is the very least that I can do to repay their excellent care of my mom in her final days.

On Saturday, December 17, 2005, at 3:30 in the morning, I received a phone call from hospice that my mom had passed away peacefully in her sleep.

I was scheduled to return to Florida to be with her only two days later. But she could no longer hang on. She was just two weeks shy of her 91st birthday.

My mom will be missed by the many people whose lives she impacted. I shall miss her for the rest of my life.

Rest in peace, Marion Fernand. You have lived your life well and faithfully. And you will remain in the memory and hearts of those you have left behind.

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