Sunday, June 24, 2007
We didn't have your phone number
It has been two weeks since I last visited Mr. Ditchfield, a senior I have been visiting almost every Sunday for over 5 years. I went this afternoon, ready with apologies, hopeful that I may be able to convince him to allow me to take him outside so he could see the roses and day lilies.
"Where are you going?" Theresa asked when she saw me in the hall. I know her from the Saturdays at Bingo and as a friend of Mr. Ditchfield.
"To see Mr. Ditchfield."
I can't say the news came as a total surprise. He was 96-years old and his health wasn't good. For the last few months he has had difficulty eating, has fallen a few times and was in considerable pain.
"We didn't have your phone number. I was thinking about you and wanted to let you know... Come with me, I'll show you the paper for his funeral."
I walked with Theresa down the familiar hall to the nurses' station. The head nurse was glad to see me. "I've been thinking about you," she said. "We didn't know your name or how to contact you. I've seen you here every week, but I never got your name."
Theresa showed me the obituary pinned on the bulletin board. She fought back tears as she recalled what a good friend he was to her.
It seems he died a few hours after I last saw him. Theresa had also visited him in his room that day and was building a puzzle in the common area when someone came to tell her he had passed away. Quietly. Alone.
In the picture I've posted here he is standing beside a hook rug he made. Ever since I first met him, he has almost always been working on one of these, or taking a break with a jigsaw puzzle. He made a beautiful, large Canadian flag that hangs in the cafeteria on the main floor. All his friends have at least one colourful square.
In the last year he has had more difficulty following patterns and often during my visits I would help him by re-doing sections, filling missed stitches or outlining an area. Time passed quickly as I worked on his rugs or helped him build the difficult part of a puzzle. He would watch me work and tell stories of the days when a riding the streetcar cost a nickel and horses pulled sleighs and carriages down Bank Street.
Theresa has offered that I go with her to the funeral in the car that is being sent for her. The head nurse gave me a hug and told me that Mr. Ditchfield talked often of me and cared for me. I choked on some tears and left with the obituary in my hand. It really shouldn't be surprising. Perhaps I shouldn't even grieve. But Ann passed away in February and now he is gone too. It's a quiet sort of sadness... a passing, a loss of a loved friend.