A Reflection of Who I Am

Sunday, December 15… Ten years ago today. I was not aware that it would be the last day my late husband Donald and I would have our last conversation.  As hard as I try I cannot remember what we spoke about.  When I left that night I was tired and he was resting comfortably. I was looking forward to his release and return to the rehabilitation center.  I was traveling between Voorhees, New Jersey and New York during those days as a Software Trainer and Programmer.  When he completed his stay a week earlier at Virtua, I admitted him to a Rehabilitation hospital so he could receive ’round the clock care. There was no one that I could call on to help with his care. By choice, we lived such isolated lives.

For two and a half years, Donald battled a rare cancer called, liposarcoma. It’s a fatty tissue cancer that normally appears in your extremities. It began in his abdomen and spread.  He was strong and determined to beat it. As I traveled away from home for work, he drove himself back and forth to University of Penn and then Fox Chase Cancer Center in northeast Philly from Voorhees once a week.

That Sunday evening, I slept hoping and praying that he would come home soon.  He hated being away from home. He said he hated being away from me. I woke up Monday morning at 6 am with the ringing of the phone.  “Mrs. Karper?” It was his doctor from Virtua, “Our boy had a very rough night. I’m sorry but you will have to start making arrangements.” What words to wake up from.  No how are you doing Mrs. Karper. Did you have a good night’s sleep. I stared at the ceiling and asked, “Are you saying I have to arrange hospice?”  I didn’t want to say “funeral” so I chose the safe word “hospice”. “Yes…hospice”.  So much can change in less than 24 hours.  Saturday we were sharing a movie in his rehab room. Sunday we were arguing and stressing about his hatred for the hospital. Monday I was arranging for hospice.

My dear friend, Janet Janka LaFrance gave me a number to call and the hospice nurse met with me around 2 pm that afternoon.  At 7 pm we move Donald to Kennedy’s Good Samaritan Hospice Center in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  I sat with him for about three hours and then left because I thought I had forgot to turn the coffee pot off that morning.  During those days, I didn’t cook or make coffee. Donald handled those chores for over 15 years of our 19 years of marriage.

At 2:30 am I received the call that he has passed in his sleep. So, Saturday we are watch television together. Sunday we are at Virtua arguing. Monday we are sharing time together at hospice and Tuesday I am making funeral arrangements.

It can happen so quickly. Don’t let silly arguments and disagreements come between those you love. Time is fleeting and not promised. Tomorrow I celebrate an anniversary that I was not prepared for nor did I want.

I wrote a book in 2011 “Joy Comes Through the Mourning”.  It does. http://bit.ly/1kPpPum

Deborah Smart aka Deborah Karper

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