I wrapped up my short update last night and set my alarm for 7AM… Even though that was 6 hours away… It felt like an indulgence. Around 5:30, our cat with pointy feet decided that walking all across my body and face would be the best way to see if “Mom” was going to get up and feed her. No, she’s not… Shes in Peoria… Leave me alone. Ignoring a cat at feeding time seldom works, but I tried my best. By 6:30 I was texting Angela to ask if I could sleep a little longer after feeding the inconsiderate feline.
It didn’t matter… Once the mind starts rolling. No sleep was had.
A few minutes later, I got a call from my Mom. Probably calling to tell me to ask me what’s going on today. No, in another gut punch to 2023, Mom and Dad were calling to tell me that my Grandmother Marie (who I have written about here recently) was found unresponsive laying next to her bed this morning. It looks to be a stroke. Mom and Dad were headed to Pontiac to St. James Hospital to help Aunt Carla and take a turn at the hospital with her. Later the news came back that it was a massive stroke and half of her body was paralyzed. Treatment for the tough 91-year-old is going to be limited to comfort measures. Unfortunately, I am getting more nad more familiar with these phrases.
That settles it… Time to get up.
I knocked on Aiden’s door to see if he was awake and see what his plan was, he jumped out of bed to head up to Peoria with me. He volunteered to drive his car and then lamented to me that he was out of gas. So, that got handled on the way to Peoria. Clever kid.
The Hospice room filled up today. (When people could find it!) I think we had at least 10 people here at the same time at one point. I was concerned about too many people, but the staff seem to have little concern as long as we can close the door. I was walking down the hall earlier and the sounds of voices from our room had all the enthusiasm of a college dorm party. The temp in the room was about 10 degrees warmer from all the hot air as well.
Summer was perked up and communicating today with more clarity than during our time at St. Jude. The different faces in the room brought out different Summer if you can believe it? I do believe that she was awake or responding to folks for 4 or 5 hours today. It was crazy.
I haven’t even gotten to the crazy! Hang on!
- Tom drove in from Indianapolis.
- Z (Nate to some of you) Summer and Nate’s roommate from Carbondale drove up today to say “Hi” with Geno the cat in his cat carrier.
- Father Andrejek came by to offer to anoint the sick
- Angela’s High School friend Jen is working on a Ranger logo and just as we were reading about this…
- A package showed up with National Park info from Manhattan Project sites that we have not been to yet.
ONE: This was the first time that Summer’s godfather and godmother (Sister Sylvia) were together since her ceremony 20+ years ago. I had not realized this until I saw the two together. Amazingly cool to have them both here and involved in her life. Great choices that have stood the test of time!
TWO: Z… OMG… Where do I start? We knew he was coming after work… And the word was that he was bringing Geno so that Summer could see him out in the garden. When he got here… Summer did not want to go to the garden. She was actually pretty happy talking to everyone and seemed generally amused that this cat was looking at her through the backpack carrier mesh. Z and Nate tried to let him stick his head out… But you probably know how that goes. We now had a contraband cat running around the room and we had to install a guard at the door.
This went on for about 15 minutes. While the chaos was churning, I was deducing that Z had to work tomorrow as well… In Carbondale! Questions had to be asked. You are driving back tonight? And you are coming back again tomorrow? You’re going to drive Geno back tonight? YOU DIDN’T PACK A LITTERBOX?
Ah, to be young and foolhardy.
Ultimately, Angela took Geno home to live a night in our basement for the one night. (I am staying here tonight!!!) I am not sure this story will end well at La Finca.
THREE: Father Michael Andrejek from St. Josephs stopped by. Big wow moment.
Aiden had wanted to call Father Mike so badly for the anointing of the sick, but I was holding out to see if Summer’s baptismal Deacon (Bubba) could be used instead. Aiden trumped me and called the Parrish Center in Pekin but had to leave a message. Shortly aftward, an OSF volunteer came by to ask some questions about faith and religious preferences. Turns out he is Catholic as well. He said he would reach out to Father Mike as well.
Summer went to St. Josephs from 1st grade till her 8th-grade graduation. As well as hitting her 2 masses a week at the Catholic Church… She was also very involved with the Delavan Baptist Church that Linda attends. Her normal routine was Sunday services and youth group in Delavan after 6 days of Catholicism. We always joked that Summer was a Catholic who knew the bible. If you know the funny, you know.
Father Mike called back Aiden and said he would be at our facility between 3:30 and 4. I think it was 3:57 when he gave a hearty knock at the door.
Once inside, Father gave us each a big hug, and personally thanked Aiden for calling him. He said he was actually trying to figure out a way to come to Memphis if need be because he has been following Summer’s journey. He was so thrilled that she was back in Peoria and that he could be here to help. I apologized for all those missed opportunities at CARLE last year. Mike had called several times, but we were in the throws of surgeries and Summer could never take his call.
There were other people in the room who have no idea who he is… So Father went around the room introducing himself and taking time to get to know Summer’s relationship with them.
I kid you not… She opened her eyes up like it was Christmas morning and gave the biggest smile I have seen in a while. I cannot explain this. She was not nearly as tight in her relationship with Father as Aiden or my Dad have been. But she told him that she was happy to see him.
She has been at a loss for words recently, and when that happens she can get frustrated. She seemed to be grasping for what to say to Father, but she was filled with a joyous and happy tone as she looked him in the eyes to tell him that this was “so great”.
I am not exagerating. I am not overtly religious or the type to proclaim miracles. But I will tell you that it was a truly spiritual moment in this room. This is coming from the guy who has a bit of a beef with God right now.
Father did some prayers and Summer spoke clearly and completed a sign of the cross. She then accepted an anointing of the sick and thanked Father for visiting.
Again, I have never seen anything like this.
(BTW, Dawn took this picture… if its illegal to film a prayer)
FOUR: Jenivive, one of Angela’s good friends shared a post about making a Ranger Badge “Fan Art” for Summer because of the Jr Ranger program she has been working on through our last vacation. I reposted it and am thinking about sending that logo to Sticker Mule for everyone to partake in an awesome illustration of her spirit.
Minutes later… Our door gets a knock. “Delivery for Summer from Dominick,” said the nurse who handed off a package of padded manilla envelopes.
I was across the room and thought, “It’s not flowers… It looks like bills… What’s this all about?”
Angela had been sitting next to Summer at the time and started pulling apart the papers enclosed in the envelopes. The return address was Manhattan Project. National Park Service Manhattan Project.
Did I write it here? Was it an insta story? Was it on Facebook? I thought it was a sidebar at best… But I mentioned that the Manhattan Project site we went to in Oregon was one of three parks dedicated to the creation of the atomic bomb. Summer and Nate had a goal to get to the second park after going to Bonnaroo this weekend to collect the second badge. The third was in Los Alamos New Mexico. I lamented that this three-parter badge was never going to get completed.
Dominic, I assume by himself, had contacted those other parks and had the Jr Ranger Program materials sent to Illinois… He then brought them here and ran away. I say ran away because he had them delivered and never came to the room. I called him while he was still here and I ran outside to thank him. Big hearty hugs and tears were shared. Dammit, this guy is awesome.
Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful moments followed for the next hour. Summer picked up those books and she and Nate were filling out the info. Her answers were a little vague about international policy but she put in 110% of everything she has to get through the book.
She now has another 3 badges for her banner and I think… We can send in the other book? I didn’t have time to look. I was too busy crying and taking pictures.
I gotta tell ya… It was damn amazing. Everyone in the room was in wonder at how this could happen. This was truly magic.
This room saw some amazing moments today.
But, it’s fleeting. You all need to know that as you make plans to see her.
Summer did not ingest any food today of any value. She consumed some liquids, but it was 8 to 10 ounces at best. She is now complaining her back hurts… And this is a symptom that Gajjar said would happen as her spine became affected by the tumors.
A few minutes ago, after sleeping for an hour… She took off her (now everpresent) Car Henge hat and was studying it… She asked what it was. Nate tried t remind her that it was Car Henge, but she was still confused.
I told one of Summer’s friends that waiting to see her till Saturday is fine… But sooner is better. If you want to see her or stop by to see the family, please make plans to come as soon as you can.
This room is large and Summer did not seem to mind the crowd. It was an uplifting and wonderful day for everyone who came by to visit.
Thanks to all that did.
Sounds like tomorrow she had a lot of DeeMack folks coming by. I can’t wait to hear the smack talk.
God Bless Grandma Stahl. She said she didn’t want Summer to pass before her… I think she is racing her.