I am re-posting a blog I wrote a little over a year ago.  Our friend and neighbor was losing a battle with congestive heart failure at the time.  The one year anniversary of his passing recently came and went, and he has been so on my mind of late, which brings more to the forefront the others who were ‘called home’ before I was ready to lose their presence in my life.

For Johnny…

I’ve mentioned before my friend and neighbor who is suffering from congestive heart failure. Over the weekend, while my family was out of town and he had a family member staying with him, he declined significantly. He called me yesterday afternoon worried because he was dizzy and confused and he wasn’t sure he could trust his eyes. I set my kids up watching a video, locked them in the house with a ‘I’m only next door and will be home soon’, then went to see what was happening. My friend/neighbor was struggling to breathe and had been hallucinating. This was all new since we’d left town. He told me it was new to him too. We called the hospice nurse and in the mean time, his daughter called my house to ask me to check on him (I was already there) and she was concerned when my daughter answered the phone saying ‘we’re home alone because mom is next door at your dad’s house’. The daughter then texted me to see what was the problem. Twenty minutes later, she arrived. The nurse was another 15 minutes and the little Pomeranian decided the nurse was trouble, so she got overly yappy which of course upset my friend/neighbor and he ultimately passed out.

[sigh]

This morning I awoke to my alarm clock at 7:30. My kids are in vacation bible school this week, and I’d set the alarm for plenty of time to get them up, make a good breakfast and get them to church. I poured my coffee, then grabbed my phone for my customary over-coffee-e-mail-check. My heart dropped when I saw I’d missed a call from my friend/neighbor 20 minutes earlier. He’d left a message that he’d gotten all tangled up in his oxygen cord and phone cord and needed help. I looked out the front window, noted there was no ambulance in front of his house (see Get Out Of Jail Free Card blog), awoke my husband to get him up for the kids and then I ran next door.

My friend/neighbor had gotten himself righted on the couch, but was still in a tangled mess and barely conscious. One of his lungs is filling with fluid and his feet are too swollen to stand up. His daughter arrived two hours later, and the nurse who comes every Tuesday came shortly thereafter. She was very concerned with how quickly his condition is deteriorating, as is my friend/neighbor who, when the group of people that had congregated in his living room was off discussing him loudly, locked eyes with me and said “It’s going so fast now. I didn’t think this would happen so fast!”

I really wanted to cry, frustrated for him and with the situation. His mind has always been so sharp but his body has been failing him for years. I’ve known him for a decade. First as a neighbor, then as a friend. I’ve seen him go from the strong avid fisherman to his current state of being unable to leave his home except by ambulance. He quietly told me last week that he’s signed a document preventing that from ever happening again.

I wasn’t there (in California) when my grandfather or Nana died. I wasn’t there to see my Grandpa go from being the strong cowboy to the Alzheimer-laden shell I’m told he became over the course of less than a year. I saw my Nana after she’d been moved into a home and wouldn’t have recognized her if not for her warm smile. She passed away a few hours after my twins were born and I was here in Washington, she still in California so I wasn’t able to make it to her memorial service. I find I’m faced with the grief from those two losses, the tragic loss of my brother and the pending loss of my friend all rolled into one. I feel as though I’m losing my family members all over again, but this time I have a front row seat for the event, and I want so badly to relinquish my seat. Yet I’m feeling blessed to have been a part of this friend/neighbors life. I’m honored that he is trusting me with his final wishes believing that I am more able to check my emotions than his kids and just follow through with his requests. He and I ‘get’ each other, and I will miss THAT most of all.

He’s not gone yet. He could still fool us all and live another ten years. It’s very unlikely, but I’ll still root for him. In the mean time, I’ll continue to keep myself and my grief in check and fill in the support gaps that he needs. In honor of my loved ones who passed without me to hold their hands, I hold his. And I’ll continue to take a deep breath and check my emotions at the door before I enter.

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