There has been job stuff-- specifically, lots of overtime, but that's secondary. I've lost a couple of my favorite people in my life.
My mother-in-law, Ellie, died on March 9. She had suffered from emphysema and a related illness, COPD, for some time. I learned in nursing school that most people with COPD eventually develop a bout of pneumonia that they can't fight off. Ellie was right out of the textbook. A few nights before, she'd become very agitated, which is often a sign of pneumonia in older adults that people miss; they never develop a fever, because their bodies are too weak to mount a fever response to the illness. She was hospitalized, and sank fast. My wife, thanks to the kindness of one of her friends, was able to fly up to Minneapolis and be with her at the end. I talked to her on the phone the night before. She was lucid and loving; she told me how much she loved me and how much she appreciated me being a good husband to her daughter and a good father to her grandchildren. She died peacefully the next day, with my wife beside her.
This picture, taken in a visit Ellie and George, my father-in-law made around Thanksgiving, is my favorite. Ellie's ailments made life a lot of work for her in her last years, yet she kept her humor and spirits, and was a delight to be around. She adored her grandkids, and just couldn't get enough of them.
The day after my mother-in-law passed away, I got a call from Larry, one of my closest friends. I could tell right away, by the tone of his voice, that something was wrong. His mother, Sandra, who lived alone, had taken a fall. She'd hit her head and had been unconcious for an unknown amount of time. She was in a coma. The next day, Larry got terrible news: there was, as the physician told him, "no chance of meaningful recovery."
The last time I'd seen Sandra was last year, at the funeral of Larry's sister, who had passed away from a heart attack at the age of 49. As sad as the event was, I was very happy to see "Sandy" as Larry kiddingly and lovingly referred to as. When I was in college, where Larry and I became friends, my parents moved to California. They had bought me a car, and Larry would usually catch a ride back to Chicago with me during the breaks. I was always welcome at his mother's home, and loved hanging out with his family. I always joked that Sandra had "taken in a stray."
Sandra was already high in my book for bringing a guy who has become, over decades, one of my closest friends into the world. Giving me some stability at a time when I was sometimes estranged from my own family made her one of my favorite people too.
Ellie and Sandra will be missed. A lot.