Monday, October 11, 2021

Fare well, Elyse

     I was chatting with an old friend on Facebook last night that hundreds of millions, if not billions of us, had hoped and prayed, as 2020 mercifully drew to a close, that 2021 would be better. I mean, it had to be, right? We'd get a new president, a real president, someone with solutions to problems that didn't involve deception and self interest. The January 5th runoff elections in Georgia augured well. Democrats won both Senate seats, hence control of the Senate, giving control of virtually the entire government, however nominally, to the Democrats. The first vaccine had just been rolled out.
     Then January 6th happened. Then by Inauguration day, we'd just lost our 400,000th  American to COVID. Now we're up to 710,000 fatalities. We've had monster hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, school shootings, lots of needless deaths. In other words, business as usual in America.
     On the parochial front, I lost my father to COVID. Last August, Mrs. JP lost her only oldest sister. Then last night, we lost Elyse.
     Elyse had just been admitted to the hospital at UMass Worcester and, the day before yesterday, they, somehow during this ongoing pandemic, found her an ICU bed. Yesterday, they intubated her and put her on a ventilator (she'd already been cleared for COVID at the hospital in nearby Marlborough). When I was telling my friend last night that 2021 was a bust so far, little did any of us know it was in the closing moments of Elyse's life.
     About two this morning, I got a call from my son telling me that her blood pressure bottomed out and the staff tried to bring her back but couldn't. It's nobody's business why she was there or what medical issues she was facing. But they were manifold and they were serious.
     When they were in the process of putting Elyse on a vent yesterday, my son Adam was in tears and at one point he said, "I'm so scared!" I think we'd both sensed that this may be the end of the road for the woman who since June 2018 had meant everything to him. Hearing him cry, not once but twice, for the first time in all the years I've known him was quite an unnerving experience. When this kid seriously sprained  his wrist in a skateboarding accident in 2004 when he was 12, he didn't even wince. let alone cry.
     Adam didn't just lose his fiancee, he lost or is about to lose everything. He'd tied his entire life to her. He was her home health aide and, without her and her income, he'll very quickly lose the rent-subsidized apartment they'd fought so hard to get. I don't know if they were still making payments on their recently-purchased used car but, if they were, it'll eventually get repossessed.
     And when they got that car last spring, they, naturally, got a lot more mobile. That's when I met Elyse for the first time and eventually, since May, hardly a week went by when we didn't see each other at least once. They introduced us to a new supermarket we'd never been to, Market Basket, and she took us to Barnes & Noble in Framingham at least three times, plus Tatnuck's, an independent bookseller in Westborough. We'd broken bread on many occasions, including in the lead image when we'd eaten at the Horseshoe Pub. It's the only picture I'd ever taken of her because, like so many of us, I thought there'd be more time to take more. I'm not like my character, Scott Carson, a shutterbug.whose entire life revolves around photography. I thought, we all thought, there would be more time for happy pictures and endless dinners.
     It was a wonderful summer and, despite her plethora of serious medical issues that eventually brought my son into her life, we thought it would be just the start of many.
     There's something ineffably rude about a sudden death. It's the ultimate hangup, the quintessential turning one's back on someone and walking away. This is why so many of us rage at the dead for leaving us when the truth is they had no choice or control over the matter. The world in the abstract effortlessly closes up and fills in the void left by a person's passing. But the individuals who'd known the departed do the opposite and wage a losing struggle to keep that person alive. The world and its gargantuan, multi-billion affairs does so without conscious effort for closure, We the living struggle to achieve it.
     Minutes after I got the horrible news from my son, I put out a short post on Facebook announcing her passing. A little over 12 hours later, it's already gotten over 200 reactions and well over 100 comments. The condolences for Adam and me have streamed in from all over the planet. Facebook being a global community, their thoughts have come from not only all over the United States but also Canada, Great Britain (Including those from two bestselling authors), Wales, Spain and, in one notable instance, Nairobi, Kenya.
     This is fitting in a way, that Elyse should be known by those who had not actually known her. I remember the point Clarence, George Bailey's guardian angel in It's a Wonderful Life, made to his charge when he told him that one human life touches many others, many more than we realize.
     The miracle of social media made that possible and now hundreds are mourning her all over the planet, as is right. She was a sweet, kind soul who would literally do anything within her power for a loved one. She was generous with whatever she had to give. If she saw you admiring something in an antique barn, she'd get it. Even if she just met you that day, if you meant something to her or Adam, she'd fight tooth and nail for you. She was the kind of person of which the world is always in short supply and we can't spare any more.
     So, fare well, Elyse, and someday we'll meet in that big bookstore in the sky.


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