“Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.”-Khalil Gibran
The Easter weekend of 2008 was a far different one from so many of the others we had shared at 1205 N. Mandan Street. Usually Easter Sunday meant eggs benedict, champagne and strawberries for brunch, and later in the afternoon, ham, sweet potatoes, corn and salad for dinner. All in all they were always good days.
On this Sunday, Joanie lay on a bed in our small living room, sleeping most of the time, with her condition slowly deteriorating. While her situation may have been worsening, her faith was not.
I gave her her pills at about 7:00 that morning, irrigated her Miami Pouch and changed the Foley bag that hung from a rail on the side of the bed. The home health care nurses came at 10:00 and gave her a workout, changing the bedding, giving her a bath and a shampoo. My notes from that morning indicate she did get worn out, and after they left she asked for more meds.
While they were busy with her, I did slip out to the grocery store not far from our house to pick up orange juice, the paper, and some English Muffin Toasting Bread that she had requested. The toast would be her Easter Sunday brunch, and she wouldn’t have much of that. Her appetite was still in the tank, and she was still losing weight.
The following Monday morning, I got a call from Ed Schafer, who at that time was George Bush’s Secretary of Agriculture, asking me if it would be okay if he stopped by on Friday when he was in Bismarck for a meeting. As I did with any request, I asked Joanie if she wanted to see Ed, and she told me she did. Ed told me he would stop over on Friday afternoon. It was moments like that when I could see a spark in her eyes, even if it was only briefly. It was calls like that that meant so much during these difficult times.
The rest of that Monday was a quiet day. After the home health nurses left shortly after noon, she dozed off and slept off an on for the rest of the day. Still not eating, and I was having to really bug her about drinking water, or any other kind of fluid I could get her to sip on.
On Wednesday, March 26th, because I hadn’t sent out anything very new on Joanie’s situation to her friends, I sent out this email to bring her friends up to date on how she was doing.
“Things remain pretty much steady here at 1205 N. Mandan St. Joanie is getting some sleep, even though her bed has become a bit messed up in the last day. That is something that will be taken care of this morning when the Home Health Nurse arrives to do her thing.
“Her spirit remains undiminished and she tells anyone and everyone that she is “going to get better and get out of here in a couple of weeks.” I find that attitude consistent with what it has been every time over the past 12 years when things looked really dark. I am happy to report that some things do not change even under really unpleasant circumstances.
“She continues to take in fluids, but not much in the way of solid food. She still thinks Boost is a pan-blackened prime rib sandwich and crispy french fries in a glass. I cannot disabuse her of that notion, though last night she did ask me for a couple of small bites of mine. Mary Pat Woodmansee had generously brought dinner for me that night from Peacock Alley. They were small bites, and there only a couple, but it is the first time in a couple of weeks that she has even attempted to eat anything remotely solid. I found that refreshing, and even a slight bit encouraging.
“That is all for now, and again, thanks to everyone for their concern and kind thoughts.
Earlier that day Dorinda, the nurse who was doing such a good job taking care of Joanie, and helping me with details of her care, had talked with me outside before she left, as we often did. Joanie was still not ready to accept the word hospice, and Dorinda was trying to figure out a way of finessing the switch from home health to hospice. I told her it wasn’t going to be easy, and that she should wait before making that move. To Joanie, hospice meant she was accepting the inevitable, and she wasn’t ready to do that yet, and I told Dorinda we would play it be ear.
It was her faith and determination that had brought her this far, and it was not for me to take that away from her, especially at this darkening hour. I was going to let it be her decision, not mine.