Friends and relatives came in from all over--California, Florida, Tennessee, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, many places in Texas. A houseful of loving people seeing to it that I have food, hugs, a chance to talk. Margaritas, gumbo, tacos, pastries, kolaches, fruit. Neighbors came by bringing food. The funeral was lovely; our granddaughter Catherine sang, my brother and sister read Scripture, many people spoke about Patrick's impact on their work and their lives. The reception at the museum was crowded and friendly with lovely food and many flowers and plants and big photos of Pat over the years. To my surprise and delight, they dedicated the museum Library and Archive in Pat's name. He would have been very proud, and his parents, both librarians when they met, must have been dancing on the clouds.
So here is Patrick, a few months ago, in a canoe on our little lake. Just the way I want to remember. Not "in a better place." In this place, right here.
Ah, irony. For more than a year we've been looking forward to the January 19 opening of Deep Spaces--my first bigtime show, so exciting to be in it, and to be at the opening. But I will always remember the date as one of the most significant in my life. That morning as I was helping Pat out of bed he said, "I have to be at a seminar at eight o'clock about surveyors being eaten by bears." He couldn't explain himself, and I attributed the confusion to the morphine we're using for shortness of breath. But as I thought about the comment, it seemed there might be a message there. I called son Phil (who is in fact a surveyor) and asked him to come here that day rather than waiting till the weekend. Dear friends stayed with Pat while I did errands and while Phil and I went to the opening. Pat was very comfortable and sleeping soundly in the recliner, waking only for sips of water. After we returned, sat around zoning on TV for a while, then we put Pat to bed. When I checked on him a few minutes later he had taken off his breathing mask and had died, peacefully and quietly. Just the way he wanted to. Then the hospice nurse came, the funeral home came, and we were alone.
The local paper, the Huntsville Item, featured a photo of me at the Deep Spaces exhibit on the front page on Friday. On Saturday there was a front page article about Patrick. The Nolans seem to be dominating the local news. You can check out Huntsville Item Online if you like.
Funeral will be Monday, January 30, followed by a reception at the museum.
We are doing OK. Friday was meetings and phone calls about funeral plans, finances, getting the equipment picked up. Phil's wife Kristi came up on Saturday, and we went through family photos, fielded lots of phone calls and visitors. Today Phil and I went to church, then they headed home. I am alone for the first time. I will figure out how much alone time I need before undertaking a lot of activity. Right now I have surges of sadness, and I need to give them the attention they require. Then I will begin a wall hanging for Phil featuring surveyors being eaten by bears.
We are home to stay. Came home Friday, decision made to sign up for hospice care with all my former collegues. A little odd to be on the receiving end. Family and friends coming and going. We are very peaceful, eating and sleeping well, enjoying lovely Texas winter weather (70s and windy today with lots of sun; we were out on the deck this afternoon.) Bought a new laptop and had WIFI installed so Pat can use the computer without going upstairs. He's been busy going through all the Christmas and get-well cards that have stacked up. The house looks like a sickroom supply company exploded in the living room, but we are finding out what we use and what can be put aside for later. So far, the only person who's slept in the hospital bed is our granddaughter.
My silk yarn did arrive, and I'm playing around with it. It's handspun from "sari waste" in Nepal; it seems that the spinners aren't terribly skilled--sometimes the twist is very tight, other places the yarn is all fuzzy and bulky. It knits easier than it crochets, so I think I'lll knit squares in various patterns, then crochet them together with black, and maybe line the garment with hot pink cotton or something similar. Colors are great--lots of reds, turquoise and green with black. Not the smoothest stuff for knitting, but vibrant and interesting to work with. I may end up couching some of it onto a quilted piece, also.
The Deep Spaces exhibit has arrived and is hanging. When we visited on Friday the labels weren't up yet. The works are really spectacular; I'm very proud to be part of the show. The opening reception is this Thursday evening. I'll take some photos and post when I can. The euphoria I had expected is tempered by the realities of our life at home right now--but I find that I'm contented with the status quo. I will attend the reception as long as I can, depending on what Pat needs. He really wants to attend. We'll take it day by day. Friends, family and church people have been very supportive. The cat snuggles at appropriate times. Life is pretty good, considering.
Something that happens when you're dealing with illness is that lovely people want to feed you. Relatives, church friends, community members have sent meals, soup, gumbo, black eyed peas for New Year, stews. I have eaten well, and Pat has eaten some of it. Yesterday I couldn't stand the refrigerator any more--stacks of plastic containers with leftovers. So I went exploring, discovered the celery stuffing I had made for Thanksgiving (that went into the garbage, container and all!), discarded the things that were too old, ate a few delicacies, and filled the dishwasher with other peoples' tupperware (or generic containers, if you will.) Now the challenge is to remember which containers belong to whom, because nobody labeled anything. I will take a stack to church tomorrow and try to return as much as I can. I know which ones belong to my son's family, fortunately.
Even more people have offered to cook for us. I know that they want to do something concrete to help, and we do so appreciate it--still, there are only two of us and Pat has a tiny appetite. With luck he'll come home Monday and we'll reconstruct our ordinary lives.
The Sam Houston BearKats played their championship game today, and lost to the Bison of North Dakota State. It was a very hard-fought game with few penalties, one both sides can be proud of. However, there isn't as much joy in Huntsville tonight as we had hoped. The undefeated (till now) season is a first for the team. I loyally flaunted my BearKat tee shirt yesterday and today like a good girl, and the entire hospital staff was decked out in orange and white. It was very sweet.
My good friend, colleague and Wright State University classmate Carol Dixon sent me a poem that just touched me this evening. I hope others will understand how meaningful this is:
Blessings, by John O'Donohue
"On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders
and you stumble, may the clay dance to balance you.
And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window
and the ghost of loss gets in to you, may a flock of colours, indigo, red, green, and azure blue come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays in the currach of thought and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you, may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours, may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours, may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you,
an invisible cloak to mind your life."
I have got to get back to fiber! A person can only be kind, objective, helpful and patient for so long before needing regeneration in the studio. So last night I ordered some recycled sari silk yarn for a lightweight sweater, and this morning I'll do some work on Tympani II before going to the hospital. The sweater is something I can work on while I support the rehab effort, so I hope it won't take too long for the yarn to arrive.
Tonight my church art and craft group will meet, and I plan to attend (first time in quite a while). It will be good to talk about something besides illness. And the Deep Spaces exhibit should arrive in Huntsville soon, the exhibit will go up, Larkin Van Horn will fly in, and the opening is set for January 19. Time to work with the museum staff on marketing. The local quilt guild, Tall Pines, is graciously handling the reception refreshments and arrangements. We've usually had very good response to quilt exhibits--years ago we had a show of Suzanne Marshall's work with great attendance, and more recently showed off the work of the Front Range Art Quilt group, which generated a lot of interest. But this is the first time the works have all been in the same format (18" wide, 45" long), and of course they could not conceivably be used to keep somebody warm unless you fastened them all together. So I look forward to the comments.
Bobbe Shapiro Nolan, Fiber Artist in Eagle Lake, TX. Trying to learn to call the sewing room my studio, and myself an artist. I retired after 15 years in hospice nursing--so now I have the time!.