The Healing Trip Part 20

From my journal dated Thursday August 8, 2019:

Van arrived yesterday at the Ogeechee Area Hospice. He came by ambulance as I'd hoped he would. I had arrived a few minutes earlier with Carla beside me (my ever-present help in times of trouble). We stood in the front hall--she and I--along with the charge nurse. The door opened and, in a burst of sunshine, he was there, propped up on a gurney, two EMT's on either side of him. He was joking with them as I figured he would be and they were animated beside him. Still, I began to cry, knowing he was coming home to the last place he would ever be. Oddly enough, his room is in Dogwood Hall--his first and only home had been on Dogwood Drive.

OAH is beautiful. Like a hotel more than a hospital. I feel good about his being here. He told me this morning that he was nervous about being here alone the first night, but that he got through it. I wish I had known that before; I would have stayed until he fell asleep.

He had a lot of visitors today what with our being so close to Sylvania now. Mary & Wilbur Matthews, Pat Powell Gibson, Duane Hughes (who took the reality of Van's condition really hard), Tammy Moore, and Jo Beth and Carla (who took me to lunch). Cousin Evalyn and her son "Ben-Ben" arrived shortly after we returned to OAH. Ben-Ben has always been a favorite of Van's as is Evalyn. They have always goofed around with each other and, two years ago, she filled in for me for a few days after Van's return from Candler with his first cancer diagnosis. For that, I am forever grateful. When they left, I walked them out. Evalyn said, "We'll come back next weekend," to which I replied (without any hesitation), "You'll be back for his funeral." I'm not sure how I know that; I only know his suffering needs to end sooner rather than later. It hurts me for him.

Eric Proctor (from Van's work) came later, his pastor Rickey Varnell, and Sam Thompson. Finally, it was just Van and me and the social worker, Sissy, who explained how hospice works . . . medically, financially, etc.

August 10, 2019 :

So many visitors today. I know Van is happy to see everyone (especially the guys from work--they seem to boost his spirits and they talk like frat brothers), but of course I'm looking to make sure he doesn't get too tired. I know I'm exhausted. And I need to eat better. I'm eating junk and calling it a meal.

Later (around 10:30 p.m.): I left the hospice center around 6:00 p.m. and literally stumbled as I neared the car. Stumbled and then, when I got in the car, closed the door, placed my hands on both sides of my head, and wailed. I beat the car's steering wheel as though to punish it. And then, when there was nothing left in me, I looked around to see if my meltdown had been witnesses. A nurse who had been walking into the center had stopped. She watched me momentarily, then walked on inside.

Sunday, August 11, 2019: I saw Van's school buddy, Brenda, when I arrived and told her about my meltdown and that I hoped the nurse who witnessed it didn't think I had completely gone loco. She said, "Oh, honey, if you only knew how many times we see that in the parking lot . . . " I'm not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.

A friend of Van's from work came by . . . Gary Thompson also came--his second visit. Good to see him, as always, but Van slept through most of the visit. After lunch (or what would be lunch), Uncle Jerry, Rick, Todd, and Derrick came. Derrick looked like he was about to cry the whole time. I understand. I do. After they left, Anna Herrington came . . . she always brings a smile, she and Van being such good friends. Like siblings, especially with us growing up across the street from each other.

Later on, everything got quiet and Van was finally resting. I tried to read a while, but the words kept blurring on the page. The door opened and a lovely woman walked in. I told her Van was asleep, but she walked over and woke him. At first I was upset. Why would she do that? Then, I realized she probably thought I said, "He's not asleep." They talked for a while in soft tones and then she left.


Clare and I met Diane and David back at the hotel. I was still shaken from my experience in the church--Clare and I had talked about it along the route back and by the time we entered Angel's Share I felt better. We had afternoon tea in the lobby, which made things better still. Afternoon tea in Edinburgh, Scotland--can you possibly beat that?

We talked about the need to eat something before catching the train

back to the airport, so we walked across the street to a restaurant, Ryan's Bar, which with its window boxes spilling flowers over striped awnings that flapped in the breeze and its wide windows beyond al fresco seating, had looked so inviting since we'd arrived the day before .

And so we went. The place was packed! Diane and David sat at one table in the sunporch while Clare and I sat across from them, against the windows. At one point, I looked over and spied Clare's parents in deep discussion. They are so adorable! I couldn't help it; I had to take a photo!

Before we knew it, it was 7:00 p.m. and time to grab our luggage and head back to the train. We waited only a few minutes in the middle of the bustling city street before it screeched to a stop and we climbed aboard, each of us finding a seat before being rocked and glided away from Edinburgh and all the memories she held for us. But we would return; we knew we would!

That night, our plane lifted off from Scottish soil as it had done the day before in Northern Ireland: under the cloak of darkness. Only this time when we landed we were not met by morning's light but night's cold and bitter wind, wind that cut through us as we made

our way out of the plane, across the tarmac, and into the airport. Again, I had a sense of deju vu, of having been there before. Not so much that I had been there the day before, but almost as if I had experienced the same in another time. How that could be, I wasn't sure. I only knew what I felt and that I was also tired and ready for bed.

We arrived back at Clare's home past midnight, each of us retiring to our rooms with happy but worn-out sighs. I wasn't sure about everyone else, but I all but plopped into bed, nearly too exhausted to change into my pajamas. But sleep came and so it must; Clare and I had plans to visit Belfast's city centre again in only a few hours, really . . . and St. George's marketplace, which Clare is very excited to show me.

As I snuggled into my bed that night, it dawned on me. I had only this night and one more in Northern Ireland . . . and then my trip would come to an end. I would have to return to my home. My life. But, in my heart I knew that this life and these memories would remain with me for a long, long time. Photo above taken from Pinterest.

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