Monday morning I woke up with a feeling that today would be the day my 86-year-old neighbor would die.  She’d been hanging on since her stroke four weeks ago and I’d been visiting her regularly in Hospice care.  Every visit she seemed worse than the visit before.  She hung on longer than most, but then again that doesn’t surprise me, she was a strong-willed woman.  A couple of times I even walked my dog over since animals were allowed in the facility.  She was slightly responsive, awake and aware of her surroundings when I first starting visiting.  She remembered meeting Lizzie even though she didn’t remember Lizzie’s name.  She asked about her, which is why I brought her back again on our daily evening walks.  Lizzie of course, just wanted to eat the remnants of food on paper plates left in the trash by visitors.

Yvonne died in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, about 3:15am.  My gut feeling of Monday was a little off, but I could feel her pending death was imminent.  When I saw her Monday night she was taking short, fast gasps of breath.  I found myself trying to breathe for her.  Having a hard time watching this, I cut my visit short and left.  I knew it would be the last time I’d see her alive.  I purposely didn’t visit her the day before, Mother’s Day, because I felt it should be reserved for her family.  Although she passed, she was still ever-present inside of me.  Everyone grieves in their own way and we let go when we’re ready.  Perhaps it was the constant visual reminder of her home and all the memories of her in the yard; but whatever it was, I wasn’t quite ready to let her go.

There has been a lot of activity across the street since she arrived in Hospice care.  I don’t understand why her children are in such a hurry to clean the house out.  There’s a huge dumpster in the driveway that is being loaded everyday with things that she loved, collected and treasured.  It breaks my heart to see it all carelessly strewn about in a reckless manner into a rusty, over-sized dumpster, especially since the dumpster arrived a week before she passed.  The irony is I’ve seen her kids over there more since her pending death, than I ever did living across the street for ten years.

On my way to work every morning, I take a minute and pause at the end of my driveway and stare at her house.  I try to block out the dumpster and look at her meticulous lawn, blooming flowers and trimmed shrubs which I’ve seen her nurture and groom through the years.  Every neighbor around her has some sort of flower, plant or shrub that she insisted on planting in our yards.  I used to joke with her that I saw more of her bum in the air than her face for she was always head down in the dirt planting something here and there all over the neighborhood.

This morning I was stunned to see that her clothes line had been removed.  This was her trademark!  She hung laundry out to dry every single day.  In the winter she would don boots and shovel a path to the clothes lines to hang her laundry.  She was adamant as long as the sun was out, it didn’t matter if it was cold, the clothes would dry.  Now you would think an elderly woman living alone wouldn’t generate a lot of laundry.  Wrong.  Yvonne was involved in the senior club, garden club, church club, quilting club, food pantry and every fundraiser that came up in town.  Every donation was collected and washed by Yvonne before they made it to their respective organizations.  This included kids clothes, stuffed animals, sneakers, boots, quilts, blankets, jackets, fabric, etc.  Everyday there was something different on the lines.  They told quite a story of her latest quest of giving.  When everything was dry, she would fold them up, pack them up, and drop them off.  She was a giver.

The lines coming down hit me the hardest.  Why did they take the lines down?  The house doesn’t look right without the lines, or something hanging on them.  That’s when it hit me, she’s really gone.  No more lines.  How many people’s lives have changed from things hanging on the lines?  So many.

The day the lines came down, I finally looked up and let her go.

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