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A change in plans

For some reason that was never clear to me, Natalie did not go home on Tuesday. Then I got a call from her mom at 1:42 on Wednesday afternoon. I was still convinced that Nattie would be cured or healed, or at least be with us long enough to get hospice care at home, but Mary’s words at least partially penetrated my fog; her organs are shutting down. I needed to get to Indianapolis.

I called a couple clients with jobs hanging over my head and begged for a little more time—how much I did not know. Ran a piece of Express Mail to the Post Office, then checked to see if my sister could take me to Indianapolis. At 2:55 I called Mary to tell her Roger, Anne and I were on our way.
Still I believed that this episode, as with the one on Sunday night, would pass. Soon Natalie would be sitting up in her own bed, eating Jello and reading books that had been delivered by the library.
I stopped in her room. She said, “Hi.” But Wes was there, too. Why? As far as I knew, he hadn’t visited before. Mary told me that he wanted to talk to Natalie in private, so I went down to the visitors’ lounge to make a pot of coffee. I barely recognized Wes’ mother; she was crying and saying, “I’m so sorry, Geoff.” I still hadn’t grasped what was happening.
Jonathan and Anna had been in the lounge, drawing pictures and writing messages to their mom. Wes brought them in; Jonathan handed his card to Natalie then turned and looked out the seventh floor window. Anna wouldn’t look at all.
Karla stopped back to say they were going to take the kids to get something to eat. “Don’t worry, Natalie,” she said. “We’ll take good care of your kids.” I still refused to comprehend.
A nurse appeared. “My kids are gone, now,” Natalie told her, and the nurse administered another dose of pain killer and tranquilizer. Before she fell asleep I said, “I’ve told everybody else, but I don’t know if I ever told you how proud i am of you.”
She whispered, “Thank you.”
“I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
By the time my friend Boyd called at 7:06, reality had begun to sink in. (Ironically, he would fall ill scarcely six months later and pass away in February of the next year.) Natalie was clinging to life only as long as her heart held out; virtually everything else had given up on her. All the tubes and wires had been disconnected and the monitors removed. Only the oxygen feed remained.
As the night wore on, her pastor arrived. Then other family members and friends. I got up, from time to time, to walk the halls or visit briefly, but mostly sat at Natalie’s bedside and held her hand. At some point that I failed to record and can no longer recall, it seemed that her sleep had become a coma. Her breath became more labored. She no longer made any other sounds or changed her position in the bed.
At 6:41 a.m. just as daylight was coming to the rest of Indianapolis, she drew her last breath.
The hospital chaplain came and offered a comforting prayer. We stood around and spoke quietly. Eventually we gathered her belongings and left her body in the room. It had failed her. She had gone and left it behind. Those of us who remained on Earth will miss her until we meet again.

One Response to “A change in plans”

  1. Heather Says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Geoff. As painful a memory as it is, it is also a beautiful memory. The memory of how a life can so subtly move on, go home.
    I want to write more, but it’s all cliche.

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