Monday morning's aren't so bad.
Not after having a lovely four day weekend spending quality time with family.
Not after having a relaxing Sunday evening at home because no evening church services means no nursery obligations.
Not after having a chance to get an extra half hour of sleep because the girlies are out of school.
Yep, although the day began with gray clouds and the drive to work included equal parts of rainy mist and spitting snowflakes, I was having a good morning.
The hair ... the make up ... the wardrobe ... everything seemed to come together this morning.
I had time for my tea and for my breakfast before heading (not rushing) out the door. Traffic flowed well and the music playing was good.
I was ready to face the day.
I knew it would be busy. It always is when we have had the office closed for more than a weekend. I was ready.
I was ready for 96 questions about how was my weekend, my Thanksgiving, etc.
I was ready for 96 exclamations over the new onslaught of cold and was I responsible questions. (For those who may not remember, I am evidently responsible for the weather that afflicts our residents.)
I was ready to find out that our boiler system had been out for two days, with no hot water available to over half our residents and the subsequent calls asking if we knew and the stories of frigid showers and baths and "during the war we would go six weeks without bathing".
I was ready to deal with the fact that it is first of the month and therefore, of course the accounting system must take itself offline with an error posting.
I was ready for the need to multitask several situations at one time - between phone, window and simply regular office tasks.
I was, however, NOT ready to find out that a particular resident had passed away during the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning.
Now, I've been doing this job for ten years and it's not the first resident death I've experienced, nor will it be the last. When you work with seniors, death is simply a part of life. There is always a tinge of sadness and, normally, I take a moment, say a prayer and then move on.
While I am not close to all my residents, there are some few who have wound themselves a bit tighter in my heart than others. Some that, I confess, I enjoy seeing, greeting and sharing an occasional moment with more than others. All my residents receive my courtesy and respect for their person, but there are some residents who, by their very nature, win my trust and care.
Ms. M was one of these.
Already a resident when I began working, Ms. M made an impression on me from the very start. She was one of those ladies that rolled with the punches life dealt and relied on her faith to keep her going. A strong woman in a fragile body, she would ride her scooter down to the lobby each day to enjoy a view other than that out her patio, to enjoy the sun. During the winter she particularly enjoyed sitting by the the fireplace in the living room, a change of scenery for a few minutes or a couple of hours.
Fiercely independent, Ms. M took care of all her affairs on her own. She would travel the city either for doctor appointments or shopping or simply going to see a movie via the Lift Bus through the city bus transportation.
Intensely private, her life - her comings and goings - were her own. Often found in the midst of group conversations, Ms. M would be the one to listen quietly and comment infrequently, rarely sharing personal experience, feelings, or thoughts.
Strong in her convictions, Ms. M was never one to "let it slide". She expected to be treated fairly and she treated others the same way. She didn't ask for extra favors, simply expected what was due - whether work by a housekeeper, or public transportation, etc.
Ms. M was on of those people whom I would on occasion make the comment more than once that I wanted "to be just like when I grew up."
Through the years Ms. M and I forged a friendship. Brief moments shared between us - a smiled greeting as she would pass my window, a pat on her back as I moved through the hallways - she was respectful of my time ... knowing I was busy ... simply enjoying the times when I could sit in the lobby for a moment and chat, yet never asking me to do so. She wouldn't ask, but she always appreciated. Ms. M trusted that I would keep her privacy and I trusted she would keep mine. Over the years Ms. M and I shared a few stories, light or serious, enjoying a few occasional moments in each other's company talking about family, health, and life in general.
Today has been a difficult Monday. But then ... the day of the week doesn't matter in this case. Although I rejoice that Ms. M is no longer in pain, no longer suffering, that she is happy and at peace in Heaven, my earthly heart is mourning the loss of the quiet presence of a kind woman.
Two quick stories I'd like to share about my Ms. M:
1) When I returned from my vacation, that first day, Ms. M. came past my window and greeted me with a true, heartfelt delight. She is the only resident with whom I shared some of my journey, and it was Ms. M. who, when I showed her my pictures of myself with Jensen & Jared, exclaimed that she knew them, that she watched Supernatural ... it was one of her favorite shows! She was happy that I had had the opportunity to go and to meet them, and happy that I had safely returned.
2) I cannot remember the first time, it's been years ago that she started stopping briefly at my window and quietly handing me a Hershey bar. She knew I love chocolate and seemed to have fun sporadically popping by and gifting me with the sweet treat. There was no regularity involved, yet she seemed to know when I could use that chocolatey sweetness the most. I would perhaps get a couple a week, sometimes a couple of weeks would pass without one. Nothing obvious ... just a simple clearing of the throat and a tap tap at my counter to get my attention, and then she would lay it down and head on down the hall or across the lobby. No conversation was needed. Of course, she knew by my lightning smile the pleasure it brought. She probably also caught on when I would dash out my door and wrap her in a hug that she had made me very happy.
I am going to miss my friend, Ms. M. Probably more than I can imagine at this time.
I'll miss her smile, her strength, her perserverence.
I'll miss her chocolate.