Doris was our neighbor. She was in her 80's. She was from Texas and even though she had lived here in Los Angeles for many, many years she still had a little drawl on her. In the mornings she would get up before the rest of the building and patrol the property. Making sure all was safe and secure. Every cat in the building would be at the door or window to greet her as she made her laps around the first and second floors. She knew the mailman's schedule better the the mailman. If you left town for a few days, you could guarantee yourself a full report of the goings on in the building upon your return.
Doris knew everyone in the building. Some more than others, but never the less, she knew everyone and everyone knew her. Most of us had a little Doris Job to work on. Apt 18 would take out her trash every morning, Apt. 15 would help with bills, Apt. 20 dialed the phone. Apt. 12 would take her for a burger. Everyone had a little job. And it was OK. Doris was like our resident Grandma.
She lived alone in her little time capsule called Apartment 19. Not a whole lot had changed in there since the 60's. Pictures of loved ones long gone and loved ones still here were strewn about the apartment. Her life as we knew it here in the building was simple and quiet.
She had moments though where, as her eyesight began to fail her, she would need help dialing the phone, reading a letter, a phone number, confirming a time or appointment. Many times we thought her request for help was also spawned by her need to just talk to someone or have someone around. We could all tell she was lonely. It is hard to see someone struggle with loneliness. You do the best you can to spend time with her, grant her attention when she needs it and comfort her when she has that look...
Doris used to have a look that I know and understand. It was a look of fear. Anxiety. Doris was suffering in Apartment 19. She never lost her whit though. She always kept good humor, even when you could tell she was depressed. She would make little hints as to why the depression and anxiety plagued her and she would talk often about keeping God close to her. She recited The Serenity Prayer often. I think we all did our best to comfort her and tried to help keep her spirits up.
As she got closer to her time, she spoke of dying a little more frequently and talked about being in heaven with God. I don't think she wished for death but I do think that as her body began to give out and she saw her time on this planet coming to a close that she was ready to some extent and more than anything just wanting to get it over with. This is one of the symptoms of anxiety. I understood this part of Doris and felt entirely helpless to do anything about it.
Last Thanksgiving when I realized she would be alone and not with her family, I called Jerry's Deli and had a turkey dinner delivered to her. Thinking if she knew who it was from she may be too proud to accept it, I had the driver tell her it was from Santa Claus. Well that backfired! She, not knowing who it was from refused to eat it for fear someone might be trying to poison her. A fine case of "it's the thought that counts." I never admitted to being Santa Claus.
While we were on vacation recently, Doris fell and hurt her back. The doctors said she was OK and sent her home. She however continued to be in pain...
One early morning there was commotion outside. It had been a few weeks since the fall, she was still hurting and the pain was just too much. Outside was an ambulance, her daughter and son-in-law. Doris was on the gurney and heading down the stairs with that look I know so well. I wondered if this was the beginning of the end for Doris.
Meanwhile, feathers began to accumulate on her screen door. This to me said the journey for Doris is about to change. This is the beginning of the end. Doris was getting ready to change course in a big way.
If you're reading this for the first time and wonder what the deal with feathers is, just know that for me (and a few others), a feather can be a que from those that have gone before us. In this case, my mother. When times are hard, when I am in need of reassurance or validation a feather tends to pop up in places too specific to just be "coincidence." If you'd like to read more about that, take a look at an article I wrote called "Trains, Feathers and Butterflies"
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand."