Holiday Reflections: Funeral for a Friend

An oldie but a goodie that makes you appreciate the ones you love
cat-funeral-memorial.jpegI’m about to take a departure from the usual laugh out loud columns that I try to write every week. You see, unfortunately, my family and I have had quite the roller coaster week. It started with our beloved cat Oliver, who has been sick for quite some time now and we thought last Tuesday that his number had finally come up. And so, after breaking the news to our kids, Darin took the ailing feline to the vet who told him that he could still hang on for a few more weeks. When my daughter came home from school later that day, she was thrilled to see that Oliver hadn’t left us yet and she lavished him with attention and kisses.
As we all got ready for bed that night, the phone rang. Darin answered and right away from his voice and the look on his face, I knew something was up. “Beth, it’s your mom. Something happened with your dad.” At this point, in sheer panic, I grabbed the phone and found out that my dad, an athletic guy of 66 whose favorite past time is tennis, golf, acting and nudging my mom, had suffered a heart attack earlier in the day. My mom tried to hide the fear in her voice as she assured me that everything was okay and that I didn’t have to come down to Florida. I instantly told my mom that I was planning to see my dad for myself and raced down to my computer to book us on the next flight out.
I spent the night crying hysterically because I didn’t have the chance to speak with my dad (visiting hours were over for the night) and couldn’t sleep until I spoke with him the next morning. While dad sounded okay, you could tell he was a bit nervous – he had already had one procedure the day before but had to go in for another one the next day so he still wasn’t out of the woods. I told him we’d be there that afternoon and I could tell he was getting all teary-eyed on the other end right after I told him I loved him.
With our two kids in tow – who were both under the impression that Grandpa had broken his leg or had an accident on the tennis court, we hopped on our flight, made it to Florida – and went straight to the hospital with my mom – who hugged me tight and whispered “I’m glad you’re here” the moment we arrived. When we got to the hospital, dad was his usual jovial self – cracking jokes, making small talk, showing the kids how to use the remote on the TV – he seemed just fine – except for the tubes coming out of his arms and the mint green hospital gown.
The next day, my mom and I returned to the hospital to find that dad had already been brought to the CATH lab for what we thought was going to be another procedure to place a stent in his artery – instead he wound up with an angioplasty. While in the waiting room, we had the most surreal encounter. A little back story to clarify why we think we had a visit from the spirit world. You see, the year before I was born my grandfather, Benjamin Goldman, suffered a heart attack. When he was admitted to the hospital, my grandmother and my mom were told that he would be okay and that they wanted to keep him overnight for observation. That night, my grandfather had another massive coronary and died in his sleep. My mom, had this experience weighing on her thoughts throughout this entire experience and I knew that as strong as my dad is, there was always a chance that something could go wrong – and mom felt the same way too. But then the waiting room incident happened.
As we sat down in our seats, I looked across the room at a woman whose name tag said Lenore Goldman. Okay – so why is that eery, you ask? Well, my mom’s name is Lenore. And her maiden name, if you’re following the story from before, is Goldman. For the very first time in her life, my mom came face to face with a woman who shared her name – on the same day her husband was to go in for a heart procedure. Even stranger – now this one my husband says is a stretch – but Lenore Goldman’s husband’s name was Bernie. My grandfather – Bennie. So my interpretation of this experience was that my grandma Dora and my grandpa Benjamin wanted to give my mom a sign that they were there with her too and that everything would be okay.
They wheeled my dad out of surgery about a half hour later and when we finally got to see him, he was a bit woozy from the medication and kept repeating himself a few times. But that was quite alright. My dad was okay and I was eternally grateful. We spent the afternoon with dad, sharing funny stories – the crazy encounter in the waiting room and just relishing the fact that he had survived and everything would go back to normal again. Dad received phone calls and visitors all day and you could tell that he too was relieved that he was on the mend.
While he did have to spend one more day in the hospital (his blood pressure dropped in the middle of the night and he had had an arrythmia) he did get to go home on Saturday and was greeted with Welcome Home signs created by his grandchildren. Although he still felt a bit winded doing the smallest activity – like picking up the morning paper from outside, dad was almost back to his old self. He even broke out into song – practicing one of the numbers he’d be performing in March with the Palm Isle Players.
As quickly as we jetted into be with Dad, we hastily made our plans to return so that we could be with Darin’s family for Christmas. We flew back on Sunday and saw that our cat Oliver was still alive (barely) and we all stood around him to pet him. Actually, I grabbed all the sheets off the couch and the wing chair because he had soiled everything around him, but he was still around, so the kids were happy.
On Christmas Day, we visited Darin’s cousins for their annual get together and when we returned home, we arrived to find that Oliver had passed away. Rebecca was devastated – although she did ask if we could get another pet quickly after our beloved cat expired. Since we didn’t have to bring him to the vet to be put to sleep we now had to figure out funeral arrangements. Rebecca wanted us to bury him in a pet cemetary and we quickly convinced her that we’d find a shady spot in the backyard and that would be Oliver’s final resting place. And so, on December 26, the Feldman family had a funeral for a friend. Oliver Feldman, who passed away on Christmas Day along with James Brown I might add, was swaddled in a baby towel and buried in our backyard. Darin said a few words of wisdom, Dylan said his goodbyes, I blew a kiss and Rebecca told him that she loved him. And Rudy, the cat who had just lost his brother to cancer, watched high above from our window and scurried out of sight when we all came back inside.
And that was my week and what I’ve come to think is a major lesson on life. Never take anyone for granted – tell your family members that you love them – even when they’re driving you nuts. Life is too short – and when you lose a pet, involve everyone in the process – I really didn’t know how to teach my kids about dying but they experienced it this weekend, shed some tears and then we went to go see “Charlotte’s Web.” Quite simply, life does in fact go on.