Since Spring was fast approaching, the numbers of snowbirds volunteering at Faith was gradually dwindling. We were down to just a few, and we wanted to make the most of the few weeks available. Peeler Hall already had one new guest room in the Iowa Suite. Work had shifted to the rear of the building with the effort to transform the open space into 2 guest rooms and 2 bathrooms, now informally dubbed the “Florida” and “Alaska” suites. Ron was working to install or reconfigure the lights, switches and outlets. Fred and Dave continued to work on the bathroom fixtures, finishing walls, installing rough plumbing, etc. During a weekend visit from Jim, tile floors were installed in the bathroom.
Dave was still making many supply runs, with Fred’s help on occasion. They were especially proud of a find at Lowe’s, where they bought a “cull” pile which Lowe’s assembled with various returned material and sold at a dramatic discount. Dave managed to get this discounted price (about 10% of retail value) cut in half to just under $50. After opening it up, they set aside the items we had no use for in this project. Putting them on Craigslist, Dave managed to sell them for $50. So he actually made about 50 cents on the purchase. Pretty good.
Pat and Cathy returned to the crawlspace below the building to finish running the necessary plumbing. We would need to extend the hot and cold water feeds, as well as connect the new drains into the existing one. And a new vent pipe would be needed that each fixture would need to connect to.
We were offered some complementary tickets to a Jacksonville Icemen hockey game on the first Sunday in March. It was fun and we were cheering the home team along with the others in our section. They were doing well against the Newfoundland Growlers. We were confused by a few things, though. Why were the opposing team wearing uniforms advertising Publix? And why were hockey players from Canada playing so badly? Hmm. . . However, Fang, the Icemen’s mascot was wearing the same black uniform as the home team.
Well, you probably guessed. We were rooting for the Growlers, not the Icemen. And we happened to be sitting in a section surrounded by Growlers fans. Who knew so many Canadians would be in Jacksonville? As the game wore on, the Icemen kept losing ground until a final score of Growlers 9, Icemen 1. Maybe hockey isn’t a game for Florida.
We had been anticipating this milestone for over a year. Cathy’s last Herceptin infusion would mark the end of her treatments for breast cancer diagnosed last January. We had talked about how to celebrate, but had not settled on anything. It was just as well. Late afternoon the day before, Cathy’s sister Chris was calling. Mom had been taken to the hospital. There were signals that this was worse than her previous stays. And then the call came from the ICU doctor. Come as soon as you can. Knowing that her mother would not want her to miss this last treatment, we prepared to leave as soon as the treatment was over.
As we went through the now familiar routine, it was hard to hold onto the joy with a feeling of sorrow so close at hand. Explaining the circumstances, the infusion was moved up an hour. Shortly after 10, it was done, and Cathy rang the final bell to celebrate the end of this journey, with Dave at her side as he has been through it all. But we didn’t even get out of the building before the phone rang. Mom was gone. She had passed within minutes of Cathy finishing her last treatment. Maybe she wanted to be with her when she rang the bell.
We made our way to NC, and spent the next few days with Cathy’s sisters and Mom’s caregivers as we grieved her loss and celebrated her life. She was active until the very end. Just a couple of days before her death, she was going out to eat with friends, and then coming home by way of the nursery, so she could buy some daffodils. Spring was coming, and Mom was happiest when working in or planning for her garden.
The week following her death, national and world events were changing rapidly. Worship services were canceled at her church and throughout NC. Cathy’s brother-in-law, who was also Mom’s executor, had traveled to Greece and was immediately caught in the chaos generated by the president’s travel restrictions from Europe as he tried to return. Then there was the matter of quarantine. Scheduling a Memorial service in this chaotic environment would be difficult. We decided on the last Saturday in April, not knowing if this was just wishful thinking.
By the following Tuesday, we decided to make our way back to Florida, since the memorial service would be delayed. We made few stops en route, and were relieved to be back at the RV and Faith, where we expect to “shelter in place” for a while.