December 9, 2008
[Part of a book I am working on about Dolores, and our life’s lessons]
It had been a tough week so far, and it was only Tuesday morning. Dolores’ left leg had continued to get swollen the last few days, while her right leg appeared thin from her weight loss of the previous month. She was still only "eating" juices, mostly frozen, and I was constantly worried that she still could not hold down anything more solid.
And I slept lightly and sporadically Monday night, as most nights the previous weeks. I had the occasional dark nightmares which would wake me up, and then I’d try to fall back into a light sleep.
I don’t recall if Dolores called me to wake me up or if I just hopped up and checked on her. But I could tell something was really wrong. Dolores seemed to be in a state of shock. It wasn’t something she said but just the way she was. I could tell she was struggling, and that she was distant. The room was cold and I was immediately upset with myself that I had allowed the fire in the corner wood stove to die down. I went to Dolores and asked if she needed anything. She seemed to have difficulty talking, and asked me to turn her from side to side, something I often did.
But this morning was different.
I felt a panic and my body was instantly in a light sweat. The room was cold but not icy. I asked
Dolores how she was. She responded that she wanted to be turned. I rolled her over to her other side. She could not get comfortable. I rolled her a few times, and she was trying hard to find a comfortable spot, which was difficult.
I told Dolores that I was going to call Prudence, that I needed help. She said no, don’t bother. I could tell that Dolores simply didn’t want to be a bother to anyone else. She knew that Prudence had to go to work and was concerned about Prudence.
"I’m going to call her," I told Dolores, for I could tell Dolores’ body was in trouble. She didn’t look right, and there was a bit of bloating. I had been hoping that Dolores would get much better and that we’d go to Hawaii. We had laughed about going to Hawaii two days earlier. Now I was panicked.
I got Dolores some of her iced juices to suck on and then I continued rolling her from side to side. She could not get comfortable.
Prudence arrived and began massaging Dolores’ bloated leg. My panic subsided, and I somehow clicked into a clinical perspective so I could keep my emotions under control. Deep inside I was crying deeply, praying deeply to whatever Life Force and gods controlled our part of the universe. I wanted Dolores to live and I wanted to continue the momentum of our renewed relationship. I knew that Dolores said she was content to do this body purging, as she called it, come what may. But I also know that she wanted to live. She often told me all of the things she still wanted to do. The publication of so many books and cards. The promotion of all the works of her mentor. The renewal of her relationship with her daughter Barbara. A second chance, she said. We had watched a movie called the Second Chance, and this made Dolores’ face so bright and alive. We both knew that we would go forward together, another chance, and that a bright future awaited us. Dolores could not die.
Prudence and I spoke little, and we worked on Dolores’ legs and body like two workers who had done this a million times. We were doing what we felt needed to be done, in accord with what Dolores was telling us. I later learned that Prudence hid her panic well, and she experienced more fear and panic than I did.
I was glad to do all that I could for Dolores. We’d lived the better part of our lives together. We’d had our ups and downs, and for better or worse, our lives were completely intertwined. I wanted Dolores to live and be healthy as naturally as I wanted that for myself.
Dolores seemed less able to guide us in what we were doing. We kept rolling her from side to side, kept on some music, and Dolores worked the swollen leg. It was exhausting, and Prudence was reaching her limit before she had to go to work. I called Julie.
Julie came quickly and we both continued to massage Dolores legs and feet. One leg was emaciated and the other was swollen. She had good sensitivity in her soles. I began to talk to Dolores constantly even though she was less and less responsive. My mind was racing. Should I call the paramedics? If I do, what if she dies in their care and doesn’t recover? Then I would not be able to fulfill her final wishes? Plus, Dolores didn’t want to go to a hospital.
Julie and I continued to turn her body from side to side, and I tried to get her to drink liquids. By 11:30 a.m., she had become unresponsive, though she kept asking me to turn her. It seemed that a sort of panic overtook Dolores’ mind, and she wanted me to roll her rapidly from side to side, as if it was impossible to be comfortable. Julie watched in silent wonder, and maybe fear.
After a half hour of this, I worked on massaging Dolores arms, and Julie worked the feet. Dolores was silent. She rolled a bit, and then I watched as Dolores seemed to pull up into herself—hard to describe. I watched as her face pulled up into itself, as there was some inner pain Dolores was experiencing. I knew she was going, but didn’t want to believe it. Her face pressed into the pillow and the elasticity that you normally see in the skin of the face wasn’t there as her face froze into a death pose. I closed her eyes, motioned to Julie that Dolores had died, and I lay down next her, and hugged her for the next 30 minutes as I could barely breathe through my choked tears. My best friend was gone.
In many significant respects, parts of me died with Dolores, and yet many parts were awakened.