One Man’s Opinion: Still Learning How to Say Goodbye

Though I communicate for a living,  I find at times it is the simplest of sayings and messages which trouble me most.  As a young kindergarten student, my brothers, sisters, and I were blessed to attend a private kindergarten in a large, converted former residence.  Kinderama Kindergarten had a large play area outdoors, and classes for 3-4 and 5-year-olds.  Brother Brian and I were 13 months apart, and sister Tanya followed behind Brian by another 18 months.  Our ages put us in separate classes, and on different sides of a wooden fence between the pre-K and K-classes.

Brian waived me and my then best friends Bobby Anguish and Billy Hope over to the fence and asked if he could play with us.  We told Brian he needed to play with kids on his side of the fence, we then said ‘goodbye,’ and we would see him after school.  My brother would talk about this ‘dis’ for years as that moment apparently left a scar, and my first of many challenges with the appropriate time and way to say goodbye.

Our family matriarch, Lynn Crane, has never been a fan of goodbyes.  In part because many farewells were not of her choosing.  Her parents divorced when she was a young girl, at a time when divorce was rare.  She would not spend time with her father again until her early teen years.  Her mother remarried, and a half-brother came soon after.  Polio was then epidemic, and in pre-Polio vaccine years, then young Lynn Ready contracted the crippling virus at school and brought it home.  Her younger brother, then three years old, succumbed to the disease, and her step-father, emotionally traumatized by that loss, left her mother and the family.

Jerry Crane would later meet, date, and marry still young Lynn Ready in June of 1960, and a family would soon follow...but before Mom was 30, her mother would leave the world all too soon, taken by a sudden brain hemorrhage, without ever having an opportunity to say goodbye.

Our brother Brian left the stage and this world early as well in April of 2014, our family had not spoken with Brian for a few weeks, as he was dealing with his own demons and not returning phone calls.  And again, no opportunity was given or received to say goodbye.

Mom never fully recovered from Brian’s departure.  Besides family, one of Mom’s pleasures and methods of relaxation had long been smoking, and after 50 years of nicotine, she was really challenged to say goodbye to cigarettes.  A couple of near-death hospital stays and dire warnings from her team of physicians finally did inspire her to put the Salems aside, but the damage to her lungs and health was already done.

For most of the last decade, Mom has suffered a cascading series of health setbacks, Sepsis, Covid19, pneumonia, smoldering myeloma, COPD, and eventually acute leukemia.  She weathered each of these and continued to fight.  She wanted more time with her children, grandchildren, husband Jerry Crane, friends, and family.  And though it wasn’t always easy, or an existence offering the highest quality of life, with an oxygen supply tether or in tow, she would soldier on.

During her final month, her failing body could not manufacture its own red blood cells and platelets, even with oxygen being pumped into her nostrils and lungs...this meant blood transfusions every other day.  The transfusion logistics were quite wearing on her now little, less than 100-pound body, and she soon decided this new blood was only delaying the inevitable, and home hospice would soon follow.

Without those multiple weekly transfusions, Mom’s decline was rapid and came with some pain.  Our family surrounded her, and in her last week, there were hours spent holding her hand, laying next to her in bed, sharing memories, and trying to bring her comfort.  On our last visit, two days before she went on to a place of peace and no pain, she was squeezing my hand and smiling, her eyes filled with recognition, but her mouth no longer able to fully form words or speech...Buh...

She fell asleep that night before I left, so I again leaned down kissing her on the cheek and forehead and then whispering into her ear...’See you in a little while on the other side.  Say hi to Brian for me.’  She had been out for at least an hour, but the corners of her mouth still turned up in the slightest smile.  Just in the nick of time, I may have finally learned a proper way to say goodbye.  See you soon Shirl.  We miss you.

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