Carol died last week, she was 91 ½ years old and the inspiration for the Intergenerational Center. I met her when she was 88 years old living in an independent living facility. I had just started out doing pet therapy with Buddy, my dog. Carol was like the Pied Piper, she would scoot in with her walker to our monthly Pet Therapy sessions. Carol would knock on doors and have a posse behind her. She loved being with the dogs and telling stories.
One day I went to visit and Carol was not there. I was just an observer in her life. She had fallen, ended up in the hospital and moved to a rehabilitation facility. I tracked her down and Buddy and I visited her there often. Sometimes when I visited, she was in PT and I watched her work hard to get her mobility back.
Another day, I went to visit and she was not there, again. This time she moved into an assisted living facility that didn’t have PT and over the course of 2 years, her health declined. Buddy and I visited her often. When she became unable to walk down to the dining room, she stayed put and had her meals in her room.
Two Thanksgivings ago, she came to my house for Thanksgiving. It was a challenge to get her there. There were so many reasons she didn’t want to go, but we insisted. Carol had a wonderful time. I think my family got more out of her being there that afternoon, then she got out of being there. We even walked up the path to see an owl, sitting in the nest in the tree. She was pretty good with her walker but I could see she was slowing down.
I did a good bit of traveling this last month and before I left, I always visited Carol. She was slowing down. Once you stop moving it gets harder and harder to to get moving again. We talked about death. She said she wasn’t afraid, and that she believed in heaven. Each time I had to leave, I told her when I came back, if she wasn’t there I would say, ‘hurrah for you Carol! you made it”. If she was there, I would come visit. She laughed.
I came back from a week away and Carol was no longer there. I tracked her down and she was in a nursing home. I was told she had a ‘crisis’ the week before. When I found her, she was asleep in a shared room with her roommate screaming. I didn’t have the heart to wake her. The next time I went she was awake in bed with the covers pulled up over her nose and her eyes wide as can be. A staff member was cleaning the bed and the other side of the room. The screaming lady had passed.
The very last time I saw Carol, she was in a wheel chair in the day room being fed by a kind aide. This was the first time she didn’t recognize me. Her eyes were closed and she was uncommunicative. A woman sitting next to her, grabbed my arm and pulled me close to her telling me that she loved me. I think she just needed some human contact. Before I left, I kissed Carol on the forehead and told her I loved her.
She passed the next night, while I was on a plane going across the Atlantic to Scotland. Carol and I often talked about my Intergenerational Center and how she wished she could spend her days there, instead of alone in her room. I told her I was doing my best to get it built and I still am. I will miss her.