Recent events

/ Tuesday, 26 April 2011 /
I am a terrible hostess, I'm afraid, to start up a quiltalong and then vanish from the scene.  I managed to draw the winners for the pattern giveaway and then notify the winners and post their names, but behind the scenes I was frantically involved in sad family affairs.  Let me back up, though.  On April 11, my husband and I celebrated our silver anniversary.  Here is a photo of us on our wedding day.  We are neither as slim nor as young today as we were then, alas!
Stuart and Lesly married
But it was not the only silver anniversary that I celebrated that day.  I also marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of my relationship with this woman, shown here on her wedding day in 1948.  My mother-in-law, Freda.  A widow for 23 years, Freda was greatly loved by all her knew her.  She was a tiny woman, probably 90 lbs soaking wet, but full of life and always youthful in her outlook and understanding, a model of generosity and compassion.
Freda as bride, 1948
Freda passed away a few days ago, at the age of 84.  I mention this on my blog because I want to tell two stories.  The first story is more on the order of a public service announcement.  Freda ended up in hospital because we observed in her an extremely rapid cognitive decline.  Ten weeks ago, she was a woman who was living alone, driving, managing capably in an independent capacity, maintaining active friendships, and with sharp awareness of world events, current movies, etc.  Over that time, she showed increasingly accelerated confusion, with memory loss and anxiety.  She forgot how to work her radio and television.  She could not remember what her medications were.  She repeated herself over and over.  Of course, we thought it was Alzheimers or another kind of dementia.  Now, although age-related dementia is not uncommon in the elderly, it does not typically progress with such speed.  I won't tell you all the ins and outs of our medical odyssey, but to say this: a week ago yesterday we took her to emergency, and the result of their assessments showed that her sodium and potassium levels were very low.  Apparently her blood pressure medication, hydrochlorothiazide, had leached these chemicals from her blood.  And one consequence of low sodium can be cognitive impairment.  As they adjusted the sodium and potassium levels, we saw our dear mother, mother-in-law and grandmother begin to return to us, and we saw her personality and spirit return.  Alas, other medical issues coalesced to cause her to falter and fail, and we lost her.  I am not a medical doctor, so any advice I give on this topic is worth as much as any other rambling on the internet, but I will say this anyway: what I learned from this is that old age may cause mental decline, but mental decline is not necessarily due to simple old age, and I would urge those of you with elderly parents to keep this in mind and keep an eye on their blood pressure meds.

When I re-started my quilting career after my 15 year hiatus, the first thing I did was to finish a project my mother had left in progress when she passed in 2008.  The second thing I did was make this lap quilt for Freda.  Here she is when I gave it to her.  She loved bright colours.
DSC_0006_2
The second story I want to tell is about something that happened at her funeral on Sunday.  Shortly before the actual service, my daughter and I made a quick trip to the washroom - we thought we should do that before people began to arrive.  We left my husband alone and promised we would be right back. As we were leaving the washroom, an elderly woman entered, holding the door open to admit an even older woman, moving very slowly with the aid of a walker - neither of these women were known to me.  The first woman asked me if I was there for Freda's funeral, and I said I was.  She said she was concerned about her children who were driving to Montreal from Toronto, had I seen them yet?  She was flustered, and she asked me to take care of her friend while she went to see if they had arrived.  Without waiting for an answer, she left.  I checked that the disabled stall was free, and I helped the second lady off with her coat.  She moved slowly into the stall.  I checked my watch.  I realized that, unless Lady #1 returned, I would need to wait until Lady #2 was finished to help her with her coat, etc.  I was concerned about leaving my husband, who has no brothers or sisters, to receive the mourners on his own, but I felt obliged to remain.  And it soon became clear that she needed even more assistance from me.  As I helped this stranger with her undergarments, I found myself becoming furious at Lady #1.  How dare she burden me with this woman, when my place was by my husband helping him?  All the while Lady #2 was telling me I was a nice lady, a good lady, to help her.  I made meaningless replies. "It's my pleasure," I said, checking my watch surreptitiously.  She needed a new pair of Depends.  I got one out of her bag and looked for a place to dispose of the old ones. "Again I'll say you're a nice lady."  Anyone would help, I said, deflecting her thanks.  "Don't say that," she replied, "they wouldn't.  I'll tell you one thing: Freda would have helped."  It stopped me in my tracks; I felt humbled and grateful for the comparison, and guilty for my grudging heart.  At that moment, nothing was more important to me than giving chesed, or lovingkindness, to this stranger.  "How did you know Freda?" she asked.  "I'm her daughter-in-law," I said, already in tears.  "I should have known," she smiled at me. As I was helping her out of the stall, Lady #1 returned to claim her friend and I rushed to return to my husband.  While I smile now at the odd situation I found myself in, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to perform that small mitzvah, and the fact that a stranger deemed me worthy of being classed with my dear Freda, may she rest in peace, will always be a great comfort to me.

My next post - soon - will be about the quiltalong.  And if it is ever good weather again, I will show you photos of the completed Miss March, which is as beautiful as any centrefold!

16 comments:

{ felicity } on: 26 April 2011 at 16:49 said...

Lesly, I'm so sorry for you (and your family's) loss. And I will tell you that your funeral story brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing it.

{ elle } on: 26 April 2011 at 16:55 said...

aw! You are both very classy ladies. Bless you!

{ Jennifer } on: 26 April 2011 at 17:08 said...

lesly, you're awesome.
i love this post, despite its sadness.

{ Jessica } on: 26 April 2011 at 17:22 said...

i'm crying now too. thank you for sharing your story. my thoughts are with your family as you cope with this great loss.

{ OhioMomPatriot } on: 26 April 2011 at 17:26 said...

We receive our blessings at the times when we least expect it. You did good.

{ Jenn } on: 26 April 2011 at 17:29 said...

very touching....thank you for sharing your heart!

{ Bree } on: 26 April 2011 at 19:35 said...

Freda sounds like a wonderful woman. :) I'm sorry for your loss, Lesly.

{ Rachel } on: 26 April 2011 at 19:43 said...

Your story brought tears to my eyes. I am so sorry for yours and your husband's loss.

{ Leanne } on: 26 April 2011 at 20:02 said...

I am also very sorry for your loss. She sounds like one wonderful woman!

{ two hippos } on: 26 April 2011 at 20:32 said...

What a beautiful tribute to Freda!

{ momto2wasd } on: 26 April 2011 at 22:27 said...

What a sweet story, and how nice to hear someone that loves and admires her mother-in-law so much. It the wedding day photos, you two also look very much alike!
I'm sorry for your loss. It sounds like she will be missed very much.

{ MariQuilts } on: 27 April 2011 at 00:58 said...

Thanks so much for sharing....I'm so sorry for your loss.

{ Deb } on: 27 April 2011 at 08:03 said...

Thanks for sharing the story, it's wonderful and I'm so sorry for your loss.

{ Stephanie } on: 27 April 2011 at 09:30 said...

Your post made me tear up a little. I'm so sorry for your loss--Freda sounds like a remarkable woman.

Shev on: 27 April 2011 at 13:37 said...

What a beautiful mother-in-law you had, inside and out. A gift for you, to have shared a quarter of a century with her. Thank you for sharing stories about her.
I am so sorry for your loss; may her memory be for a blessing.

{ Lee D } on: 27 April 2011 at 17:26 said...

Sorry to hear of Freda's passing. I have also heard reference to sodium and Potassium levels in the aged causing problems. My mom is here visiting from ON, and I sure notice a difference in her since last year, mentally. Unfortunately, she is in denial, making it frustrating for all!!! good luck with your quilt along. Peace to you and your husband.

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