I've been putting this off for too long. I knew -- the second my mother took her last few breaths -- that I had to write something about it. And a good friend inasmuch as told me it was my duty to chronicle the experience of watching my elderly mother just deteriorate before my eyes until, finally, both my sister and I were practically begging whatever forces that control these things to take her.
My first observation concerning the above is to be careful what you beg for. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I knew that as hard as it was to say goodbye, my mother's long protracted period of suffering -- whether it was consciously or otherwise -- was over. She would be in pain no more. She wouldn't have to wake up every morning confined to bed or a wheelchair ... at the mercy of attendants at the nursing home who, although they went well above and beyond, were no substitutes for the gift of mobility and vitality. Nor should they have been expected to be. There would be no more diminished capacity. No more indignities that go with being 90. No more would she struggle to articulate what she knew she wanted to say.
All my life I've heard "but it's a blessing." "She's in a better place." "Now, she won't have to suffer anymore."
I don't know about any of that. My mother always told me -- especially after my father died in 2007 -- that they would have to drag her kicking and screaming into the ground. She did not want to die. Diminished capacity be damned. She fought for every breath she took, especially in the last weeks of her life when congestive heart failure and pneumonia began to do her body irreparable damage.
Then again, if there were ever anything you could take to the bank, it was that my mother was a fighter. She was fifth among seven brothers and sisters ... far enough down to have to fight for everything she got. My sister and I always surmised that being so far down in the pecking order -- without being the baby -- prepared her well. My mother was, if nothing else, a woman who spoke her mind, torpedoes be damned. But then, she could turn around and express genuine amazement and hurt when people reacted negatively. It was one of her many paradoxes.
My mother competed. In everything. She'd come home from playing bridge, or poker, or cribbage, and be spitting nickels if she lost. She loved her brother, Robert, but cursed over, under and sideways and down if he beat her in cribbage. Which -- unfortunately -- was all the time.
She and my father would come home from playing bridge with Henry and Jane Iwanowicz and she would be giving him hell for the bad hands he played. She taught me whist, and whenever we'd play partners - - which we did now and then -- she'd give me a look that would scare God if I put the wrong card down. I resisted the urge to learn bridge because I don't think I could go through the discomfort of causing her to lose at that, too.
I'll never forget the year one of the local fathers put together a girls baseball team called the "Squaws" that my sister played on. They had a mother-daughter game and my mom hit a bullet, right at my sister ... who stuck her glove out reflexively (more like in fear of her life) and caught it. My mother couldn't get over it, and that's all we heard about for a month.
Yet oddly enough, I love playing cribbage. A few years back, when she was still lucid, that was one way to pass the time during nursing home visits. We'd play cribbage. I'd get her as often as she'd get me (I never beat Uncle Rob either, by the way).
She also loved puzzles, and another mother-son bonding experience -- back when she was still home and very much alert -- was to do the daily crosswords together.
She was a remarkable woman ... witty, talented, an accomplished poet, pianist and composer. In another era, when it wasn't so damn difficult to get your music/poetry published, she'd have achieved at least moderate fame. But she didn't ask for that. All she asked was that her family and friends appreciate what the brought to them. And we did, albeit grudgingly at times. You know how it is. You're 15, it's 1968, and your mother has just written this song that could have fit perfectly on the Lawrence Welk show. Decidedly not cool.
My sister Jayne and I would guffaw. We'd call it old fashioned ... whatever. And my mother would insist we hear it again ... and again ... and again. We'd have to learn it ... sing it ... at parties ... in front of our friends ... who laughed at us, silently (I'm sure) thanking God it wasn't them who had to suffer such abject humiliation. She could sense our displeasure. And she'd pull me aside and say, "someday, you'll be playing these songs yourself with tears running down your face."
I haven't even attempted that yet.
It was the same with the poems. She'd write one, and make us read them back to her "word for word." God help either of us if we screwed up the meter. She'd stop us and make us start over. There was no "picking up where you left off."
Most of her poems were tame ... paeans to nature, the Red Sox, or of enduring the rambunctious activities of our Labrador Retriever. Every now and then, though, she'd pull one out of left field. After the Attaca prison riots of 1972, she wrote a blistering poem, laying waste to the inmates who were responsible.
One of my cousins took exception to the tone of it, and wrote a blistering response. Now, as I've said before, my mother never minded telling you what she thought ... but she was a little less enthusiastic about getting negative feedback. And she was not happy that this cousin of mine -- and nephew of hers -- had the temerity to respond so vociferously.
And she was really unhappy with me. By this time, I was a freshman in college, and I knew everything ... and if you weren't sure, all you had to do was ask me. I told her that she should be honored that someone from my generation took her poem seriously enough to compose a thoughtful -- albeit negative -- response. She didn't quite see it that way.
Evelyn Krause definitely had that side of her. She had high expectations for everyone around her, nd that went double for her two children. There was no slacking when it came to my mother. The word wasn't in her vocabulary. I was by no means a poor student, but there was always one subject that kept me off the honor roll in high school. If it wasn't math, it was French ... or (gasp!) religion. She didn't want to hear about the "A" in history. It was always "how can you -- an altar boy! -- get a 'C' in religion?"
This is the dichotomy of a parent/child relationship, though. And I suppose it's more of a paradoxical thing with mothers. They gave us life. They nurtured us. We never stop being their children. And in time, we accept the fact that they'll never stop being our mothers.
Their propensity to push us, pull us, drag us kicking and screaming, to places we'd never want to go otherwise (whether that's in the real-time sense of figuratively) is derived from the same instincts that make mama bears attack anyone who comes within a wide radius of her cubs. We're all part of the same animal kingdom.
It is such a complicated relationship. Except in rare cases, no one loves us more (and I definitely know that was true in my case); yet no one has more of a license to be a critic. In fact, mothers are generally our biggest critics. We've all heard it. Growing up, I don't think my mother ever considered it a good week if I didn't get the litany of all my usual faults and foibles. My room was a mess; I didn't study enough; I should practice my accordion more so I can play like George Guanci; I never looked as if I cared about anything. Words like "lackadaisical" sprung from her lips often.
But here's the other side. If my mother always knew exactly what to say to push my buttons, she also always knew what to say to make it all go away. She also knew what to do. She could read me like a book. If I was upset, she knew what to cook to make me feel better. I can't count the number of times I came home from school, upset about something either the teacher said or did (or one of my peers). I wasn't one to tell tales, but she could tell my my body language, or my face, that things weren't all right.
She was cool about those things. She let me stew. And when it was time for supper, there was a steaming plate of spaghetti and meatballs, or a nice, sizzling steak, waiting for us. She knew those were my favorites. Steak and French fries. She didn't like me eating French fries, but when I was down about something, they magically appeared.
She did this for my sister, I'm sure, too. But I was so self-absorbed as a kid I never knew, or cared, much about anything she might have liked.
Then, after supper, while I was doing homework (or pretending to, at least) she'd quietly come up to my room and ask me what happened. We'd talk it out ... and, you know, she was very good in these situations about telling me what I didn't necessarily want to hear ... but in a way that didn't make you feel horrible about it afterward.
The only subject that was out of bounds with us was boy-girls stuff. She didn't want to know about girlfriends (not that I had a ton of them) and she was not the person to ask about any teenage crushes as she thought they took away from all the other things I had an obligation to accomplish (she'd have made a good football coach, my mother).
I know ... I know ... Irish-American son (well half ... her half) writes about "sainted" mother. Not exactly original, or -- for that matter -- necessarily confined to Celtic heritage. And I don't mean to go in that direction. Obviously she had her faults. Obviously not every day with her was a bed of roses. She was -- in my mind, at least -- an exceptional person. And exceptional people are often impatient if the rest of the world can't, or won't, keep up. Even if they're her children ... and even if they're 60 years old.
But she still defended us fiercely if need be. She had no problem telling off the entire board of directors of the West Lynn American Little League when I didn't get picked for the majors one year and staged a crying fit for the ages. And when a classmate blindsided me and gave me a textbook shiner in seventh grade she -- much to my horror -- called the kid's mother and threatened to get the police involved.
That's one of the few times, when all was said and done, that I really wanted to crawl into a hole and cover myself up.There's such a thing as honor. And much as didn't really like to fight, there were times when, to quote Rocky Balboa, "a man gotta do what a man gotta do." Having her threaten police action pretty much negated any chance of retaliation ... even that meant getting my block knocked off all over again.
However, all of this is but a prelude to what follows. I just wanted to give you a glimpse of what "life with mother" was all about before we segue into the next phase.
Mom always had her aches and pains. Her father was severely arthritic by the time he reached his 50s ,.. so was she ... so was I ... and so were a few of my cousins. In retrospect, being arthritic should have been the least of my family's concerns. Three of my mother's sisters died after long, awful bouts with Alzheimer's; Uncle Rob died of cancer; and two of my cousins have already died from cancer as well.
Comparatively, arthritis may be painful, but it doesn't rob you of yourself the way Alzheimer's does; and it's not a death sentence. I don't suppose that makes you feel any better when you're struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or when your knees buckle and you fall up against your 88-year-old aunt who is still recovering from a broken hip. But it is something to keep in mind.
I don't know if there's a name yet for having both knees and both hips replaced in one lifetime, but maybe from hereon out we'll call it Full Evelyn Monty ... sort of like Tommy John Surgery. She had them all done.
I feel for people born of her era sometimes. They call it the "greatest generation" and perhaps it was. But on the other hand, people born prior to the depression missed so much in terms of 21st century way of life. My grandfather was an active guy, a lover of life ... and boy would he have ever benefited from knee replacement surgery.
Neither of my parents ever exercised in their adulthood. It just wasn't what they were taught to do. You didn't see the whole world walking when I was a kid. Runners were freaks. To me, exercisers were either muscle-bound guys tossing medicine balls around or Bulgarian weight lifters. Even I had to undergo a total re-indoctrination into modern exercise when I got into my late 20s and discovered its benefits. I might not be the world's greatest devotee (the happiest part of my day is when I leave the gym) but I understand its benefits.
One of the biggest tragedies in my mother's life is that she never exercised ... and never saw the value of taking the stress of extra poundage off her joints ... or even by keeping them moving in order to keep them functioning. By the time she was in her mid-to-late 50s, we were already wheeling her around airports because she could no longer walk around the terminals.
Going forward, armed with the information we have now, there's no excuse for people who refuse to move. But there just wasn't a premium put on it when she was of this age, and old habits die hard. Hers was a more sedentary existence.
This worked against her as she got older and her joints became less and less compromising. If anyone's ever had the experience, they know that the more something hurts, the less you want to hurt it. It stands to reason that if your knees hurt, or your back aches, every time you walk more than 100 feet, chances are you have to be spectacularly motivated if you're going to do it. We aren't most of the time.
This was my mother's albatross from middle age on. She didn't wake up one morning and forget how to walk. It happened incrementally, over the course of 25 years, until she could no longer do it. First, she needed the wheelchair if she was going shopping. Soon enough, we had a wheelchair in the house. Eventually, it was a motorized chair that left gouges in the woodwork because while there was now a handicapped person in the house, the house wasn't close to being handicap accessible. Entrance ways were too small. There were too many tight corners. The bathroom was a closet, which meant she had to park the chair at the doorway, and do contortions to get onto her walker, which she then used gingerly the rest of the way.
Getting in and out of bed was a particular project involving the wheelchair, the bureau, ropes so she could hoist herself into bed, and again so she could hoist herself toward the middle so she wouldn't fall off.
Most of these were devised by my father and sister, who seemed to have the know-how to anticipate way better than I ever did. When my father got too old and infirmed himself to be able to tend to her needs, I had visions of both of them being institutionalized.
My dad died before that ever happened. He was almost the opposite of my mother. He wasn't going to hang arouond forever. In fact, once it became obvious to him that his body was badly failing him, he pretty much gave up. He was depressed, and when the two of them were home and in their respective recliners, they just looked like two of the saddest people. She couldn't walk (and therefore could do little for herself) and he had gotten past the point of being able to tend to her (which -- I think -- is what kept him alive until he was 87).
He died in 2007, and we kept mom in the house for more than two years afterward by virtue of home health aides, and teamwork. I took the morning shift and Jayne took the night shift. I admit I had the easier job. Getting her blueberry muffin (and my bagel) and coffee at Dunkins and doing crosswords might have done nothing for my weight, but it was certainly less of an imposition than coming home from work, after a long day of nursing, and then having to tend to a disabled mother, the way Jayne had to do.
But things just kept deteriorating for her physically. There were more and more emergency phone calls in the middle of the night because she'd fallen. She didn't want to call the Fire Department because the last time we did that, one of the firemen said -- in front of the both of them -- that if he had to come up again he was going to call the authorities. That really infuriated me, and for one of the few times in my life, I ratted someone out (I knew the fire chief). Next thing I knew, the firefighter had "retired." Wonder why. I hope it was an either/or.
Most of the time, though, it was my son and I coming up to the house at 3 a.m. to help my mother up after a fall. It happened so often that I finally had to tell her to forget about going to bed, and to sleep in the recliner. It was easier for her to get in and out of the chair than it was to go through the whole process of going back to bed.
That bought us about two or three months of relative peace (at least as far as midnight phone calls) but there were always other things.
You don't have time to contemplate how unfair all of this is. You're living it. It's a daily part of your life. If you're not on active duty, whether it's preparing meals, or supervising doctor's visits, or just going over there to keep her company and take her mind off her misery, then you're worrying about it. Family life takes a beating. You're never really sure, when the phone rings, what, or who, is going to be coming out of the other end. And if it rings, say, past 10 p.m. on any night, the chill just goes right through you.
Finally, though, the situation became untenable. She couldn't perform even minimal functions to take care of herself. By this time, she was 86 and, truthfully, for all she had going against her, it's a miracle she was able to stay home for as long as she did.
Of course, you can't tell a son or a daughter that when the time comes to make this decision. If there's one recurring horror story we've all heard over the years, it's the dreaded "nursing home." Nobody wants to be there. They put my father in one for rehab purposes only (after he suffered a hairline fracture in his back) and he died two weeks later. It was the last place he wanted to be ... and he made sure we all knew it.
It was against this backdrop we finally threw up our hands. It was a Saturday night, and my mother had -- once again -- stumbled getting out of her chair. Jayne was there, and she made the split-second decision to call an ambulance and get her admitted to Union Hospital. I think we both knew that her split-second decision would mean she'd never see her house again. And she never did.
What an awful, awful, way to have that happen. There are times you just have to shut yourself in some corner and just cry. Not for you. Never for yourself. With me, it was always "here was this incredibly proud woman, who had accomplished so much, and who had given so much to the world, and she's reduced to this! She's reduced to being a "case" in someone's files ... and a statistic for Mass. Health to ponder."
It was shortly before Christmas 2009 when we had a family conference at Life Care Center for the North Shore and for the first time they told us they didn't think she could go home. That started four months of hell ... better known as "Dealing with Mass. Health" to do the paperwork to get her insured for extended stay as opposed to short term.
This cycle is basically one humiliation after another. Your body goes. You become helpless. You have to depend on your children for the same things for which they depended on you.
And then you get your assets taken away from you.
I know there's fraud, and I know that the state has its reasons for the policies it has, but this process is a little like watching someone come in and repossess your entire house piece by piece. And where Jayne took the lead on medical matters, I took it on financial matters. This was my baby ... and my baby alone. Thank God for lawyers ... and for Atty. Stephen L. Smith in particular. He is a very able elder-affairs lawyer who shepherded us through this process. He may be among the most trustworthy people I know He was the king of debunking misinformation ... which, as we all know, abounds and sounds so believable most of the time.
In the four months I dealt with him, I learned that you could take everything Steve said to the bank. He never steered us wrong. And some of the things we had to do to liquidate was very time consuming and heartbreaking. He is one of the real good guys in this saga. No matter what he said, and no matter how skeptically it was initially received, Steve proved to be correct.
What this came down to, in short, was that everything up to $2,000, liquid, property, investments, or miscellaneous, was hers. Anything beyond $2 grand was theirs. This meant liquidating assets such as insurance policies, stock dividends, bank accounts, and getting rid of it. We paid for my mother's entire funeral with liquidated assets (allowed) and paid off a long-standing, five-figure loan (also allowed). But we couldn't buy a headstone for their grave (which is why there still isn't one).
We were fortunate in one respect. Four years prior to 2009, we had their house converted to a life estate, with them as joint tenants. I don't think the ink was dry on the new deed before the state extended the evergreen period on life estates. We were able to qualify without having to lose the house, too (since she wouldn't be living there).
One Saturday evening, I came home and opened up the mail and there was correspondence from Mass. Health saying they were placing a lien on the house. I didn't know what that meant ... I thought they were going to try to go after the house anyway, even though we fell within the evergreen period. I placed a panic call to Steve (it was one of about 1,000 times, I think, that I made the mistake of thinking he was wrong about something), who told me to calm down ... that that's standard Mass. Health procedure when they were ready to approve someone. The lien is their protection.
Two days later, confirmation arrived. I cannot think of another time in my life when I've been so happy ... and so sad ... over the same thing. I was happy for myself. The process was over and Steve got us through. The sadness was for her. Life Care was to be her home, now. She would never see the house she'd lived in for 57 years. Eventually, my sister and I bought what was left of the mortgage (which meant about six months of just horrendous dealings with Bank of America ... but that's another story for another day), Steve negotiated with Mass. Health for us to buy out the lien, and we kept it in the family (my son lives there now).
It was imperceptible at first. We'd go to visit her and she'd have trouble getting words out. Nothing astonishing. But noticeable. You could still carry on a conversation, but she'd have trouble keeping up, especially if it was late in the afternoon and she was tired. We found that cribbage stimulated her mind, as did puzzle books, so we kept her in supply.
Secretly, I feared that if she was in a nursing home, she'd be dead within a year. She fooled us. She stayed alive four more years. But it was more and more of a struggle for her.
It took her some time to get used to the culture. We brought her motorized chair there (which involved paying a mover) but she couldn't get the hang of using it there, even though the doorways and hallways were wider. But there was so much human traffic in those halls, and her mind was starting to slip just enough so that she became an unnecessary adventure on that thing, and she had to stop using it.
That's the thing about this. My cousin Jack watched his mother, my Aunt Eileen, die from Alzheimer's, and he called it a cruel disease because it just robbed her of herself in painful increments. Dementia is only a little less cruel. As time goes by, the slippage is gradual until one day it just comes up and slaps you in the face. That's how it was with my mother. We'd figured we could deal with her in this condition, and we'd get there one day and she'd have regressed even more.
If there's one thing I inherited from my mother is my need for white noise in the background almost all the time ... either music or the TV. She'd keep the TV on in her room, and she'd start talking and the next thing you'd know, she'd confuse reality with what was on the TV. She had vivid dreams that she could swear were real. One New Year's Day I went up there to hear all about the swinging party she'd been to the night before. On several occasions, she told me she could walk. Every time I'd hear this, I'd just die a little more inside. It's unavoidable.
Another cousin said, after her father died, that there had been a growing disconnect between what was ... and what she saw in the last few months of his life. I understand completely. There was no similarity between the proud, often contentious, yet totally nurturing mother I grew up with and what I saw when I visited her. My sister and I used to laugh that no matter what her state of mind was on a given day, she never lost ability to push our buttons. It's probably the last of her life skills to have deserted her.
But desert her it did. She grew increasingly docile (which you'd think would be a good thing, but I saw it as a sign that she was beginning to comprehend that she was dying). She stayed in bed more, and sat in her wheelchair less. Never a big fan of nursing home food to begin with, she'd just leave meals uneaten (but chow down with gusto if we bought in candy or a donut or a muffin). She had trouble coordinating herself to even drink with a straw, let alone a cup.
And the problem with articulation just got worse. By last year, it was difficult to have a conversation with her.
But old instincts just don't die. My mother would play BINGO on Sunday's in the rec room (it was the only social thing she did in her last years there) and her competitive instincts came to the surface. I had a tougher time finding those letters and numbers than she did. She loved games, and she was in her element.
Last August, we received a call from the nursing home that she had pneumonia and she couldn't wake up. I got there before Jayne and sat with her, and I guess it all came out. All of the years of caring for her, watching her slowly die, just caught up. Next thing I knew, half the nursing home descended on me en masse to make sure I was going to be OK. One of the social workers summoned a priest. This was going to be it.
(As an aside, I will have to say that being in a nursing home is not the best way to spend your last years, but the folks at Life Care were beyond wonderful, and for that we'll always be grateful.)
Only it wasn't. She rallied. The staff brought the comfort cart in (which had food and drinks), figuring we'd be in for a long stay. We swear, she sniffed the cookies and woke up ... as if nothing had happened.
She had a couple of more scares over the next few months, and somehow, every time, she managed to come out of them. We thought maybe she was morphing into a cat, and was going through all her nine lives.
As I said earlier, you're so focused on what you need to do in these situations that you don't always see the signs. As co-owner of the family manse, I am -- for all intents and purposes -- the primary caretaker and landlord. Often, dealing with situations involving the house (not to mention my own) forced me to take my eye off one ball or the other, and things have fallen through the cracks. They, as well as an unpredictable work schedule, kept me away from the nursing home for longer stretches of time than I'd have liked for the last five or six months. But every time I went, I could see her condition was getting worse and worse.
Easter was a revelation for me. We all went and she was sitting in her wheelchair, pretty much ungroomed, and all I could do was look and feel my heart sink to the ground. My mother had the look of a dying woman. I had a sense that whatever was going to happen would go into acceleration phase.
It wasn't even two weeks later, on a Wednesday afternoon, April 30, that we got a phone call from the nursing home that, once again, she was asleep and not responding. I rushed over there, and she was unresponsive. She stayed that way for two more days, but when I went to see her that Saturday, she was awake and alert. She looked exhausted from the pneumonia, but she was strong enough to see me, and recognize me.
To be honest, I didn't know how to feel about that. As a son who was about to lose his mother, I didn't want her to die. I think everyone's primal instinct is to revert back to being a little kid. And as a little kid, it was, "Mama, don't leave me."
But as a 60-year-old adult, it was more like, "how much does she have to suffer ... how much fighting is she going to be made to do!!"
That brief visit -- cut short, sadly, because one of the attendants shooed me out of the room so she could tend to her for something -- was the last time I ever saw my mother awake, with a look of recognition (and love) in her eyes for me. My sister also got to spend some time with her that day as well. We're both grateful for that.
By the next night, she was back in a coma, but stable. Monday ... same thing.
I went over there Tuesday morning to pretty much the same set of circumstances, except as morning passed into afternoon, she began to be less serene and indicate more discomfort. A minister from our parish came into the room and gave me communion, and answered one question we had: Should we call the priest again?
"No," she said. "She has earned her reward." And when she left, she bent over and whispered to my mother, "you have earned it, Evelyn." It's these little things you remember most of all.
When Deborah left, I got as close to her as the furniture would allow, and gave her "permission." Anyone who has ever done that knows what that's like. It's awful. I did it with my father, too. You just have to hope they can hear you ... because, sadly, that's the time you finally say all the things you should have said when they were alert. I told her it was OK. That she'd fought, and fought, and fought ... and that it was time for her to let go ... to rest.
I actually went to work. I had to get away from it, and she didn't seem to be any worse than she'd been for the last few days, so I figured it was OK to go to the office. I stayed until about 8:30, and figured I'd go the nursing home afterward. My sister was already there.
I got there around 8:45 and the night nurse had just shifted her position in the bed. Jayne and I went upstairs and we weren't in the room for 10 minutes before we noticed a change in her breathing. And before we could even digest that ... she let out an exhale and died. It was the same exact thing that happened with my father seven years earlier than that.
I don't have words for how that felt. I don't know why, but it felt way worse than it did seven years ago. Maybe because it was the second parent ... and maybe it was the subconscious realization that, after 60 years of having my mother in some way, shape or form, to talk to when things became overwhelming, she was gone.
For a rather robust looking woman, my mother looked small and shrunken in her bed. And she looked sad. Even with all the suffering she did, she looked sad. And I was sad for her.
Now that it's over, and I've had time to digest it and begin to put it in perspective, I feel that the immediate difficulty I had in the aftermath of my mother's death came from releasing all the pent-up emotion and stress that came with caring for her all these years ... and from watching her struggle for so long. What I'm left with is a sad sense of unfairness about the way her life ended up. I wonder if others who have watched their parents suffer for years, feel the same way.
She was two weeks short of being 91. She had a good run. There's no denying that. And I suppose you do look around and see the enormous tragedies that befall people who have died much younger than at age 91, and you can take some comfort in that. But you can't compare life circumstances. Not when it comes to this. Our situations are all unique. She was my mother ... and I watched it all unfold. I saw how she deteriorated bit by bit until she was nothing but a shell of what she once was. And while I know that happens more often than not, this time it was unique to her ... and to us.
I'm grateful for all the time we had with her ... and for all the wonderful memories growing up with Evelyn A. Krause brought. Still, I wish I'd had one more day ... one more visit ... with her. And I'll always wish that.