Palm Sunday began for us with a glorious worship service at our church, where young children from age 2 to early teens paraded up and down the aisles waving palm branches while our Praise Band sang a glorious anthem regaling Jesus' arrival. It was heartwarming - and moving - to see these little ones in such numbers glorifying God. I reflected on how blessed I am that God has seen me through the challenges of the past months, and now my grandmother is safe, healthy and happy in her new residence.
The rest of our day was equally good... a delicious lunch at a local restaurant with my husband and his mother... an afternoon nap... and a good, relaxing Sunday. But all of that changed as my husband and I sat down for dinner. The phone rang... an urgent message from a friend of mine... please call him immediately. Since he and I are mutual friends of my cousin, Carla Lou, I feared something had happened... perhaps to Carla's dad, my cousin Carl, who is 87 and has recently undergone a major surgical procedure to repair a hernia. Carl is also in the early stages of Alzheimer's.
I phoned my friend Scott, and he began to talk about Carla, a friend named Mark, a hospital, a brain bleed... and it was all running together for me. Carla lives in Columbus, Ohio. Was she in Arkansas? I had heard she was coming... but then I heard she wasn't going to come, after all. Was her friend injured? Did Carla need a ride to her dad's?
Finally, Scott was able to make me understand that my cousin, Carla Lou, age 46... young, vibrant, beautiful Carla... had suffered a brain bleed and was in grave condition in a Little Rock hospital. She was sitting on the patio with friends when she became incoherent and then collapsed. She had been in our state for a few days, attending the 25th reunion of her college class. She was planning to make the hour-long drive from Little Rock on Monday to visit her dad, and possibly other relatives and friends. She never got here.
Carla Lou died in the early hours of Monday, April 18th. Because her classmates were all talking about this on Facebook, Carla's brothers and I scrambled to get things in place to tell her dad - and my grandmother. Carla's maternal grandmother, Bessie, was my Mam-ma Polly's older sister. Just to complicate matters - and possibly confuse you - Carla's paternal grandmother (her dad's mother) - and my great-grandmother were sisters. We are "double cousins." I spent a lot of time late into Sunday night on the phone with Carla's friends and her two older brothers. Early Monday, I dressed and headed for the ALF to deliver the news to my grandmother before someone from our little community called and told her over the phone. My cousin was sitting on his dad's doorstep to deliver the news in person that Carla was dead.
I got to the ALF as Mam-ma finished her breakfast. We sat and talked while she ate, and then I said, "Let's go to your apartment... I have something to tell you." We walked back to her room, and I sat her down and delivered the news. She cried, but she took it very well, all things considered. I think there is an extra blessing for older persons... a sort of insulation against the shock of such horrible news. For my cousin, Carl, the shock of hearing that Carla was dead, along with the frailty brought on by his age and illness - not to mention his Alzheimer's - all served to temper the impact for him. I am not sure how much of this he will ever be able to fully internalize... and that's a good thing.