Thursday is J’s 67th birthday and we had a family party on Sunday. We did it up right. Bagels, lox, birthday cake, decorations and presents.
J seemed happy to be with all of us. She laughed a lot.
But I’m not at all sure she knew it was her birthday. At this point, she misses a lot of the cues.
We lit a candle for each decade. J licked her index finger as if she was going to snuff them out. But we adjust. We all blew the candles out with her.
Her presents were a pair of Skechers and some taffy. She wouldn’t try on the new shoes, even with cajoling. She downright rejected the taffy, perhaps with some knowledge that it isn’t good for her teeth. Her brother, W, was trying to evoke their childhood taffy pulls. That memory seems gone, although she was able to call W by name.
She didn’t eat much, but she had a stomach flu earlier in the week, and another urinary tract infection. It may take a few more days for her to get her appetite back. At times, she had a blank look on her face.
The party was hard on all of us except J. She is slipping away from us.
I recently listened to a podcast with Atul Gawande, a doctor and elegant writer whose new book is called, “Being Mortal.” (See https://onbeing.org/programs/atul-gawande-what-matters-in-the-end-oct2017/) He talked about infusing meaning into the lives of his terminally ill patients by asking them, “What does a good day look like?”
What does a good day look like for J? Feeling the sun on her skin. Seeing trees and sky. Being with familiar people who are upbeat. Feeling safe.
What does a good day look like to me? On Sunday, giving J a good day was enough.