Older … Sadder … Wiser

SWI am aboard a Southwest flight from Cleveland OH to Orange County, returning from funeral services for my sister-in-law, GeorgeAnn, who passed suddenly from a massive heart attack last Monday.  There was a viewing on Friday night and on Saturday, a brief memorial service at the funeral home and grave side, then a luncheon back at the funeral home.  Everything was beautiful and in keeping with GeorgeAnn’s personality, upbeat, a celebration of her life rather than an occasion for grieving.   Personally, I am a crier.  When I lose someone, I need to cry and I’d rather do it with loved ones than alone at night or in my car at the park.  I didn’t know GeorgeAnn as well as most of the people attending so I went with their lead and only teared up a few times.

Because GeorgeAnn and my brother lived in Ohio and we lived in California, I actually spent time with her less than a dozen times, mostly at events like weddings or funerals. But I had a sense of her, not just from those occasional visits but from the way she took care of my brother when he lost his son and my sister when dementia dropped by to change her life.  From Facebook, I


Facebook Photo by GeorgeAnn

knew she loved birds and flowers and music and, yes, my brother, even when he was exasperating.   A few years ago, she changed her status on Facebook to my sister.  I liked that, a lot.  Learning more about her at her memorial made me aware that we had even more in common than I thought. For one, she was a painter.   I am leaving Cleveland with a sense of wishing I’d known her better.

When my sister’s dementia reached the point where she could no longer live alone in Connecticut, my brother, Glenn, and GeorgeAnn moved her to Cleveland and let her live in their house for nearly a year.  I love my sister dearly, but even before her dementia, she could be difficult … it was during that year that my wife and I talked to Glenn and GeorgeAnn more frequently, learning firsthand of GeorgeAnn’s natural caregiving, which came with equal doses of patience, outspokenness and humor. When my brother was sick for a period of months, we saw more of the same.   Yesterday, my brother, his daughter, Linda, my wife and I went to visit my sister, Patti, at the eldercare facility where she lives.   Glenn had warned me that she had, as they say, gone downhill since I saw her last, so I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t recognize us.   We took her to lunch and it was clear she really couldn’t participate in our conversations.  She seems fairly content, almost happy at times, but it is hard to see my kid sister where she is.   After we dropped her off, Glenn, Linda, my wife and I went to a local park to sit and talk.  We shared news and stories, good and bad, but it was a nice way to end the visit.

So, now I am at 30,000 feet somewhere between Cleveland and Denver.   Muri is across the aisle and both of us have empty middle seats beside us.  I am feeling Older than I did when we departed from Orange County last Thursday.  Facing the mortality of a loved one, especially one that passed suddenly without warning, and seeing her lying at rest in the coffin will do that.  I have not slept well for a week and funeral proceedings, no matter how upbeat, are exhausting … as a usually energetic 73 year old, being dead tired makes me feel … well, you get the point.  I have been getting around on a cane, the result of a partial muscle tear in my right leg, so Southwest pre-boarded me with the wheelchairs, the old people in wheelchairs.   Truthfully, I am feeling Old not Older.  I am certainly feeling Sadder, carrying a cold mass of grief near my heart, for the loss of a sister-in-law I loved, for a brother who will have to wake alone in his home and a sister who no longer knows me. I know a hard cry in the park will be a part of the grieving process.  I hate that.  And yes, I am Wiser. Any time I know that This Too Shall Pass for both the good and the bad, life is easier to accept.  I am keenly aware that I’d best appreciate the many gifts I’ve been given and the good people who have populated my life, some of them who have moved on. Yesterday, Muri and I discussed getting our affairs in order so that when our time comes, those left behind will know what we wanted.  That, too, is Wiser at our age.

So, life goes on.  Until it doesn’t.

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2 Comments on “Older … Sadder … Wiser”

  1. Glenn Says:

    I love you and Muri and loved having some time to talk.

  2. Mike Curatola aka corona Mike Says:

    Sorry that you lost someone you will miss dearly. Thank you for sharing.

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