Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Doing a Frank

This has become a new family joke, since yesterday, when I went to the funeral place to have the final arrangement meeting with them, with another director, and found that the helpful and lovely Frank of the first meeting had made so many blunders on the paperwork that we had to simply start from scratch. I might as well not have had the preliminary meeting after all.

From having me make out the check to the wrong party, to failing to find the POA document I sent him, to missing the parts of the Trust document that would have validated the arrangement, to ignoring my explanation that I was caregiver, not spouse, even though I signed it that way, he simply blew up the whole thing and the nice lady, Kate, who met with me helped me get it straightened out.

Literally everything that Frank said was either wrong or backwards. I had to make an emergency call to HS to come right away to sign the cremation authorization documents, since as the next of kin his was the required signature, not mine as Frank had confidently and inaccurately said! fortunately he was nearby and available and took care of it, and read the documents and found even more mistakes that had happened....and Kate said, well, simply write us a new check with the correct designation, and it will work. But as I pointed out, the POA expires when the person does, and I no longer had the legal authority to write that check again on those funds in that account. Oh. Ah.

So we settled that I will pay the lot when I go and collect his ashes (another Frank mistake, he said I need do nothing further, they would be sent to me, sigh) and now we think things are set.

Today the cremation will happen somewhere in Pennsylvania. First time in many years HP has traveled out of state! But human errors aside, it really is okay, dear blogistas.

Our friend next door, from south India came over and established that we like and can enjoy south Indian spicy food and said, right, that's settled, you do not cook, I will bring you dinner every day, don't even think of cooking. She ran home and made a huge batch of rice dumplings there and then, brought them over with lovely mixed vegetable soup and a chicken curry, then finally got off to work! what a wonderful lunch that was, perfect strengthening food before the funeral meeting in the afternoon!

I have been instructed by the friends who have taken to dropping by daily to check, chat, offer errands and so on, to STOP thanking them, they want to do this and they like it. I realize that when people want to help and don't know what to do, it's kind for me to figure out a task I really need done and ask them for it! an expected duty at the moment.

In fact the wonderful friend who came over when Andy died and we were waiting with the hospice nurse for the funeral people to come collect him, asked if I would let her wait with me, she knowing the funeral world, let the hospice nurse go to her next patient, and she and another friend waited in the house with me, supervised the removal while HS and I waited in another room, and called us down after it was done and he'd left safely.

Then they spent the evening chatting and laughing with us about all kinds of things, and I told them they'd fulfilled on of the great Corporal Works of Mercy, one of the cornerstones of the Catholic religion which I still observe, to bury the dead and comfort the mourner. And they thanked me for letting them do this!

They commented on how peaceful he looked, and I explained that I had closed his eyes and straightened his dear body, arranged his hands comfortably, because he had been in a crooked over position before, supported by pillows to help his breathing, but all on one side, legs bent, needed to be reorganized after he died. I knew he would be hugely amused that even then I wanted him to look neat! it was one of his endless jokes about my compulsive straightening habits.

I was so fortunate to be the person there who had the privilege of doing this last thing for him. His aide had attended him that morning and realized he was close to death, so she shaved and combed and bathed him beautifully. She thanked me for letting her do this. I would have done it if she had not been there, but I was glad to let her.

And HS helped with one last nice task to give his dad dignity before he left -- he and the nurse dressed him with shorts and socks, no more diaper, and he already had his favorite bright orange shirt on, the one I used to say made him look like a deer hunter. So he left us dressed the way he liked to be.

And now our new life has started. The days are so much longer now that I'm not constantly on the clock, but it will be a long time before I stop glancing over to see what he wants. I am waiting for the people to accept my donation of his equipment, a nonprofit which takes items like the bed and Hoyer lift and chair, for re use by other people who don't have insurance to cover them. Meanwhile it's all still here, and that's hard to see the empty chair and bed, but we will get through this.

One last typical family joke thing: when we came home from the funeral place yesterday, through yet another torrential rain, carrying a goodie box they'd given me, square cardboard thing with a solemn purple ribbon, I was struggling out of the car, swinging the box by the ribbon while I got my umbrella going, and a neighbor who doesn't know us well, but was aware of what had happened, though vague on when, came over to say how sorry she was, and was mesmerized by the box, which puzzled me.

Until we got into the house and HS said, Mom, I think she thought that was Dad's ashes you were slinging about there! we just laughed like drains over this, and now I want to set it up on the table very officially looking and see if people treat this box of candies and nuts and treats with great reverence....but my friend who was there last night said, no, no, you should put it by the dumpster and see who does what about it!!! we are BAAAAAD people.

But we have good friends who know when it's okay to laugh!


  1. You are so fortunate to have such good friends and neighbors to take care of you. I'm also glad you found something to laugh about.

  2. laughter is the best tonic. I'm pleased you managed to straighten out all the problems with your humour intact

  3. This made me smile even though it is also very heart-wrenching. Thinking of you.

  4. It's surprising how much laughter there can be around death. So glad your customary grace and generosity have provided you with such kind friends.

    The funeral people were great to us, too, when my dad died. I'd like to smack that Frank guy, though I am very relieved you got through the day well despite him.

  5. Laughter really is the best medicine and it always amazes me how much we can find to laugh about at heart-wrenching times like this. You really do have to laugh at the Franks of the world or they would truly drive you to despair. Warm thoughts and hugs for you.

  6. I'm glad you can laugh about Frank -- I would have been tempted to turn him into another client for the funeral home! I'm so happy that people are around to help and comfort and distract -- how are the cats coping with all the traffic and changes?

  7. It may be a long time before you stop looking to see if he needs anything, but at least you will have the comfort of feeling him nearest to you then. You were a great help and joy to him these last several months.


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