Saturday, December 26, 2009

a death in the family

Christmas for us this year centered on the death of Nancy’s mother, Lorraine Flier, who passed away peacefully in her sleep Christmas morning at the nearby nursing home, Oudtburgh, where she had lived these past eight months. She was 92.

The nursing home called me at about 9:15 just as we were about to have Christmas breakfast. How could I have known that instead of opening presents I would be picking out a coffin?

By mid-day, a large part of the family had gathered at Oudtburgh, then came back to our home where we had a Christmas meal together.

Lorraine knew she was dying -- only days before she managed to ask Nancy and me if we accepted this. “Yes, of course we do,” we assured her.

One ordinarily wouldn’t want to combine a death in the family with Christmas, but it seemed somehow just the right day for her to slip away, as all of us were planning to go to visit her anyway, as she knew. Nancy had been with her two days before and could see how close death was. She held Lorraine’s hand and Lorraine, though her eyes were closed, was aware enough that Nancy was there to tighten her grip.

We felt a strange mixture of sorrow and relief yesterday. I think Lorraine had been baffled for months that death was so long in coming her way. She couldn’t walk, could barely see, and (since her stroke in March) had a vocabulary of less than fifty words.

Living in Holland hadn’t been easy for her. Moving to any new country is difficult, but when you're 90 and you've just lost a son, it's really tough. We were able to rearrange the house so that she could live on the ground floor, essential as she could only get around by walker. In the time she lived us, almost two years, she spent her days doing jigsaw puzzles, painting, and watching English-language TV. Painting was the most important activity for her prior to her stroke. We kept her supplied with lots of canvases and paints and she made dozens of beautiful paintings, many of them scenes from around Sundance, Wyoming, where she was born. She only lived in Sundance until she was seven, but for her it was always "home."

We’re so very grateful she spent the last part of her life with us. She came to realize for the first time how large a family she had. With Lux’s birth eight months ago, she was overjoyed to become a great-grandmother. (Of all the photos hanging in her room at Oudtburgh, probably the one that was most significant to her was a “four generations” photo -- herself, Nancy, Cait and Lux.)

Her funeral will be on Tuesday morning.

In the Orthodox Church, when someone dies, it is customary to say ”Eternal memory!” Of course it is only God’s memory that is truly eternal. My God receive her into his kingdom.

Jim & Nancy

PS There is a folder of photos of Lorraine plus a number of her paintings in his folder:

* * *


Else M Tennessen said...

Memory eternal! May Lorraine find blessed repose. I only knew Lorraine through your posts, but she was a blessing to me nonetheless, reminding me of my own great grandmother. May the Lord comfort your hearts during this time.

Mike Brennan, CC-ITMS Coordinator said...

Condolences to Nancy on the passing of her mom and to all in the family who will miss her. The article is a beautiful tribute to her. Prayers from your friends in Chicago.
-- Mike Brennan

Veronika said...

In Russian Orthodox Church there's also a pious believe that it's very special to die during first week after Pascha and Christmas period (through Epiphany) - "Her soul shall dwell with the blessed".