Ch.173 Pat’s Last Gift

Ch.173 Pat’s Last Gift

Nov. 2022

           “Ron, you’re doing better than I thought.”

I’d just spent several hours with Jackie, a friend whom I hadn’t seen or talked with since Pat died four months ago. “I think I am doing pretty well,” I replied, “and that’s because of Pat’s last gift to me.”

That last gift was Pat’s allowing me to grieve each small step in her gradual decline. The first recognition that something was wrong – helping Pat with her paperwork, I realized she wasn’t writing treatment plans anymore because she couldn’t think abstractly enough to create a treatment plan; and then, the hallucinations that made me recognize Pat was losing her foundation in reality; later, Pat becoming lost in Palo Alto for over eight hours, which told me she could not drive any longer and I would have to keep her safe; and then, her need to be physically transferred by two persons from bed to wheelchair, informing me that her body was disintegrating quickly; nearing the end, Pat’s smiling when I came into her room but her inability to say my name; and, finally, watching Pat take her last breath on July 1, 2022, her gentle good bye to myself and her family. 

I grieved each of these losses, as well as many, many more, first denying each loss, then minimizing, and finally accepting each loss in its finality; No, these weren’t temporary losses that maybe a medicine might correct; rather, each loss was permanent and must be accepted. Pat would never think like Pat again; Pat would never walk; Pat would never be able to say my name.

And so, when Pat passed away, five months ago, she had prepared me for this inevitability. Still, of course, Pat’s death wasn’t just another small step. It was more than the equivalent of all those other losses put together. However, I believe our sharing each of those previous losses has helped me accept Pat’s passing and is allowing me to go more fluidly into the next chapter of my life.