Today is the day that I need to publish that sad post I mentioned a few days ago. I had a very good friend pass away on June 2nd, and it's taken me a few days to gather my thoughts on what exactly I want to say about her. You know, when someone means so much to you, there are not enough words to accurately say... anything. But I'm going to try, because I feel as though I owe that to her.
It is my finding that with age comes a loss of dignity, and I suppose that statement is true; however, I want anyone who happens to read this knows that this woman was not a resident of the nursing home to me, nor was she simply an "old person." She was my friend, and I will always remember her as such.
To quote Walt Whitman again,
"Women sit or move to and fro, some old, some young.
The young are beautiful--but the old are more beautiful than the young."
I was fortunate enough to get permission from her son to post a few pictures of his mom and include her name, so I would like to introduce you to one of my very good friends, Dorothy Dando:
The pictures on the end were when we were using ribbon in one of our crafts. We started picking out ribbons to dress up her headbands that she always wore, and she was kind enough to model them for me. She wore the one on the right quite a bit with her red shirts, and I was always a little proud... ;) By the way, she turned eighty a few weeks ago, and that hair color is all natural!
The middle picture is one of her wearing MY owl ring! She loved it, so I put it on her finger.
About a month ago, she randomly decided to get a perm. She said to me, "Chuck just won't even recognize me!" She looked great with her new hair.
I know that she looks super sweet in these photos, but she was as ornery as they come. I think that is why I got along with her so well-- we both have a good sense of humor. Ha.
Here are a few excerpts of conversations that we have had. I used them in previous posts, but now I get to reveal who the speaker was!
Referring to my new hair:
Dorothy: I like your hair... sometimes.
Dorothy : Does it wash out?
I showed her the food I was chewing in my mouth:
D: You're revolting!
When playing Farkle:
Dorothy: "Farkle, farkle, farkle. You're such a farkle."
Talking about side bangs:
Dorothy: There are people here with hair here and here. It looks ridiculous. (pointing to the sides of her face where bangs would be) There are people on TV with hair like that.
Me: Well, it's the style...
Dorothy: Well it's silly.
Me: I don't have my hair that way...
Dorothy: Well it's a good thing, because if you did, I would cut it off. It's unsanitary.
I looked cross-eyed at her:
Dorothy: Don't look at me with your eyes crossed.
Me: [crosses eyes]
Dorothy: Stop that! Your eyes are going to get stuck that way, and then what will you do?
Me: You'd still love me.
Dorothy: No, I wouldn't. I don't like cross-eyed people.
Talking about painting nails:
D: Your nails look good!
D: ... for a change.
Okay, okay-- maybe you think that I'm pretty mean for doing everything I can to annoy her, but surely you understand! She loved it! Right? Right.
Dorothy was my favorite. I could always count on her to catch on to my jokes, to roll her eyes at other residents who were being less than enjoyable, to have a serious conversation when it was necessary and to play hundreds of games of Skip-Bo with me. She even indulged me with the "fast robot." Basically, you do the robot, but really fast. She would give me a pointed disapproving look while shaking her head, but then she'd go ahead and do the fast robot with me.
And Harry Potter fans, she went with me to see the latest movie last summer! She didn't even know who Harry Potter was, or the gist of the story line, but she went with me. She even shared her butterscotch candy with me, and if you know her at all, she did not part with those easily. When we got out of the movie (which was over two hours long), she said, "Well, that was really neat. I'd like to see the next one." For someone with dementia, two hours is a long time, especially when it's something like Harry Potter for which she had no context. I was really excited about taking her to see the last movie in July.
Dorothy found out shortly after her birthday that she had stage four cancer. I think it was lung cancer, but I'm pretty sure that it spread to other areas of her body. We had one good day together after she got back from the hospital. She got her hair fixed, played Bingo and went to the Resident Council Meeting with me. After that, though, she was bedridden, barely eating or drinking anything worth mentioning. She still laughed at my jokes when she was coherent, and she always told me that she loved me, too, whenever I would leave to go home.
She was so brave! Dorothy never complained to me about getting ill, and she kept her sense of humor all the way to the end. It took all of the will power I have to keep it together when I would be in the room with her, but I always called Anthony at the end of the day. He made me talk about what was going on so that I would handle it better when she passed.
Her son, Chuck, told me that Dorothy always wanted a daughter. He said that I probably fulfilled that role for her these last two years as well as anyone could have. It's such a compliment and a blessing to know that Dorothy thought highly of me, but it's as humbling as anything I've encountered.
One of my co-workers told me that whenever she would see Dorothy in the dining room that she would think of me, because she thinks that I am going to "become her" when I get old. I would be honored to grow old to be like Dorothy! She was constantly reading, always joking and laughing, and she was incredibly smart! Although I wish that dementia had not placed her in a nursing home, I am beyond blessed to have spent almost two years with her.
As most of you know from my post about my tattoo, my grandma passed away when I was sixteen. She lived with me for eleven years, and she was an incredible woman. It is rare to find people that remind me of her, because she was such a uniquely wonderful person in my life. I think that it is safe to say that Dorothy will always be one of those few people.
There is so much more that I can say, but what is important to me is for you all to know that Dorothy was a friend. Age means nothing to me.
The morning that she died, I had a dream that she had passed. I literally woke up from that dream, and my phone buzzed. The nurse texted me to let me know that she had died. The dream was probably a result of her constantly being on my thoughts, but a part of me wants to think that it was some sort of goodbye.
Her funeral is tomorrow morning at 10 am, and her son invited me to say a few words at the service. It's going to be a simple, graveside service with a closed casket, but he wanted me to know that she is going to be buried with one of the bracelets that I gave her. I don't feel "worthy" (worthy doesn't seem like the appropriate word, but I don't know what else to put) of that gesture, but I am absolutely grateful for it. Again, I was able to hold it together when he first told me this, but I definitely bawled later.
Well, I'm going to close. The funeral is tomorrow, and I need to get to sleep and figure out what I could possibly say that would express what I want people to hear.
I don't want to put pressure on anyone, but if you want to, here is a way for you to donate to the American Cancer Society. (Let me tell you, it was also humbling to receive money from some of her friends in the nursing home to make a donation on their behalf. She was so loved!)
Please click the picture below to get to the donation page.
If a donation is not feasible, just buy a bag of butterscotch candy every once in a while, since I'm pretty sure that this particular company will go out of business without Dorothy to fund it... :)
Thank you for reading, as always.