I just returned from Jupiter, Florida, where my brothers and I sat with our mother during her final days and then delivered her to our father’s side.
We received “the call” Tuesday morning from the hospice folks – the one that says “twenty-four to forty-eight hours.” By that night, we were surrounding her bed, in her home, yakking about old days growing up in Wayland, debating which of her sumptuous French recipes was the superior one, remembering the hijinx, large and small, that we’d all committed, including hers. The hospice nurses seemed nonplussed by our odd cheeriness, but assured us that “hearing is the last thing to go,” and though no one could really know if there is any connection between “hearing” and “comprehension,” we chose to believe there was.
For two more days, our routine continued, watching old westerns, Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney, Groucho Marx, Jeopardy, even Judge Judy – the shows that Mom had watched routinely during the past three years, confined to her bed or chair with only the company of her devoted and loving caregivers (when we were not visiting, that is).
When the end came on Thursday at 2:00 p.m., we were at her side. A short time later, the three of us visited the funeral home and together made arrangements. I am quite certain that the funeral director had never witnessed the sort of jocularity we exhibited, and one with no sense of humor might have been horrified by it. But we were just doing what came naturally, according to her own nature and the instructions given to us years before by our father, when his own time was approaching: “Be funny,” he’d instructed us. We were, without effort.
That night, the television blared the replay of the day’s PGA Tour Championship (see below), we grilled two-inch thick steaks to go with the “Morin salad,” and much red wine was consumed – all as it would have been in happier times when Betty and Charlie were with us.
Friday morning, we ate breakfast at the Corner Cafe & Brewery – Conch Fritters Benedict and the beer sampler – and the stories, memories and laughter continued. It was there that oldest brother Chuck (a tax lawyer) opined that this was all potential fodder for short stories. I remain ambivalent, for the time.
For the rest of the day, and the next, during the funeral mass and burial, that thought continued to distract me, even as I listened to Jim’s eloquent, alternately irreverent and poignant eulogy.
It is true that the loss of a parent, shared by siblings, is a story told a million times, in each instance as original and unique as the characters and their manner of coping with death. Like any story, though, success in the telling requires a narrative distance that is just impossible to achieve without the passage of time. A short while ago, I wrote a short story called The Messenger, which was published in 100 Stories For Haiti. It is fiction, but was written too soon after the death of my father. As someone whose opinion I value highly observed, “you do grief well. I wonder about that.” So do I.
So for now, the only story that will be told is the simplest and truest:
ELIZABETH MORIN Elizabeth (Donnelly) Morin, 84, died Thursday at her Jupiter home after a long illness. Beloved wife of 58 years to the late Charles H. Morin, Esq. Mrs. Morin was an expert French chef, consummate homemaker and hostess, and mother and drill sergeant to three willful sons. Born and raised in Worcester, MA, daughter of Judge James C. Donnelly of the Massachusetts Superior Court, Mrs. Morin attended Northampton School for Girls and graduated from Smith College in 1947. She and Charles married in 1949. Mrs. Morin was an especially avid golfer, winning women’s club championships at Oyster Harbors Country Club, Brae Burn Country Club, and Columbia Country Club. She and her husband moved to Jupiter Hills Village in 1987, but her golfing prowess was curtailed by a stroke in 1992. She leaves her three sons, Charles of Boston, MA, James of Coral Gables, FL and Peter of Scituate, MA; nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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