new haircut August post from Erik


  Jody, Mom, and Dad enjoy a visit from Mom's longtime friend, Linda (far left).



  Jody and Mom.



  The scene where Mom has been spending most of her time.



  Photos by Blake.


  By Erik - August 20, 1999


Today a note beside the front doorbell asks people to knock gently instead of ringing. A small sign requests that visitors leave their shoes in the front hall. Fresh flowers salute from the kitchen counter and smile from the table near Micki's bed. Whispers take over as you near our bedroom. Micki now spends much of each day sleeping.

The mid May decision to work with Hospice stripped away most remaining defenses. We acknowledged - out loud, if you will - that Micki's death is on the near horizon. A walker, a shower chair, and a wheelchair arrived - just in case. A team of gentle pros visited to assess every aspect of Micki's care. New pain meds artfully displaced Micki's occasional nausea and furrowed brow - at last. An early July trip to New England seemed possible.

We went to Connecticut so Micki could sing the closing blessing at a beloved uncle's memorial service in Salem. Dozens of Bingham relatives stopped by to say hello/good-bye. A one night outing to the Northfield family conference ended with the choir assembled beneath Micki's window singing, Eagles' Wings.Decades of friendships condensed into a song for Micki, every face awash.

A nighttime fall on a carpet edge. A hospital bed with rails appears in our bedroom. All the Navaho scatter rugs vanish into a closet. Open discussion of details about a Gainesville memorial service. Micki is clear. "That's your responsibility. The service is for the living." The months have burnished shrill impossibilities into hard won acceptance. Over The Bridge seems tranquil. We have all talked openly with Micki about her dying. A prime concern remains surrogate grandmothers for Jody and Blake's future offspring. Jody and Micki discuss possibilities. Grandchildren nurture stays a priority, "Bear, I want you to marry again, BUT you have to find someone who can sing to our grandchildren."

Jody and Blake often feed Micki. The tenderness and encouragement of her feeding them - just yesterday - lovingly returned. We three sing to Micki the lullabies she and I sang to the kids, "Sleep My Child" and "The Deerfield Evensong." Meals continue to arrive at the front door. How do folks know when no one in the house feels like cooking?

Letters overflow the antique salad bowl in the dining room and nose the brim of one of Jane Esselstyn's giant hand-woven baskets. The awesome reach of Blake's Website touches lives around the planet. Spontaneous love and outreach flow from people we've never known. We are blessed by a loving network of care and support.

From a Smith College classmate and singing buddy of Micki's -

Dearest Micki,

There are so many Micki places in my heart: Micki the friend, Micki the singer, the bubbly charmer, the mother of Jody, the fellow traveler, the joke teller, the owner of those wonderful eyes, the bride, the bridesmaid, the chaplain, the good, good person whose every motive has been to help. Even if you do leave us too soon, we'll have our Micki places. Having you in my life has made my heart grow bigger and have more places for treasures like you. Thank you.

From a Yale classmate and friend of forty years -
Dear Erik:

Thank you for your letter and that wonderful newspaper story. There are many things I might say about what Micki is doing and how she is doing it, but a word that must be said is "nobility." Another is "dignity." Another is "graceful." And containing them all is the concept of the beauty that is uniquely hers.

Her love of God and her trust in God defines the relationship that is simplified in language, but not in the doing of it, in which we are commanded to love God and our fellow man with all our hearts and all our minds. These are incalculably difficult concepts, but as she always has, she "gets it,' and as only she could, she is willing to summon the strength to live by it. She has shown us all what it means, and what it costs to be human as Jesus asks us to be. I am so proud of her, and to have known her, I could bust.

On the January late afternoon when Micki and I heard the first solid medical picture of what the future might hold, we left the Neurology Department in churning silence. Our take out dinners at a neighborhood bakery defiantly included two splits of French champagne. Nestled at home, trying to comprehend what lay ahead, we downed one bottle in toasts to the masterpiece we would create in whatever time we had left together. We agreed to toast with the second bottle when we knew we had indeed fashioned a masterpiece of the situation we had been handed.

For fifteen years, following my own cancer recovery, we led workshops about dealing with the emotions around life-threatening illness. We had counseled couples and families about the value of being open with feelings. We had experienced the parched loneliness of unshared fears and concerns. To keep the couple connection wet and green the scares must be shared - not fixed, just shared. We had lived it, learned, and passed along our hard won insights to thousands with panache and humor. Neither of us ever imagined we would be asked to live through the drama once again.

This evening I popped the cork on the second bottle of champagne. Gathered around Micki's bed with me were Jody, Blake, and Blake's girlfriend, Meredith. We toasted the masterpiece that our family had lived out in the last eight months. Catching Micki's eye over the clinking crystal, there sparkled a knowing gleam, "We did it."

The summer marches on. Thank you for the ongoing prayers and caring that bless this family every day.

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