The month of April has not been kind to our family. Our nephew Jonathan, Papa Townsend and my Dad all left us in April. Once again we have experienced the loss of someone near and dear, Glenn’s Dad, Donald Lawrence Clark.
While we were in Nova Scotia this year we received the phone call that all adult children dread. It was Glenn’s Mom, Annie, calling to tell us that his Dad, had been taken to the hospital with some serious health issues. For a while, it looked like he would recover to the point that he could leave the hospital, but that was not to be.
Over the last month, his wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have spent time at the hospital to help Don pass the time. He had a lot of information he wanted to share with us. Always very organized, every detail had been taken care of. He had left his affairs in order. Every “t” had been crossed and every “i” dotted.
On Tuesday, Annie, Cliff, Glenn and I spent time at the hospital. As darkness came, a small still voice urged me to stay later than usual with Don. Glenn stayed too, helping his Dad, ever so tenderly adjusting his oxygen mask, helping him take small sips of water, straightening up his blankets, making sure his he could reach everything he needed easily and simply looking in his eyes. After all, they had spent almost fifty-nine years together.
At about 7 p.m., Don’s nurse for the night came in to check on everything. I believe she was ray of sunshine sent from straight from heaven to travel the final leg of his earthly journey with him. Glenn and I sat there filled with gratefulness and admiration as she interacted with Don. She spoke with a crystal clear loud voice, held his hand firmly and gazed into his eyes as he gave her his update. She listened intently to his soft, scratchy voice and reassured him that it was her job to make sure that he was as comfortable as possible. Don appreciated her kindness and the extra time she spent with him. She came in and out frequently.
Like many people who know they are dying, Don didn’t want to be alone. Glenn and I sat with him and listened to his stories. His eyes were bright and he was totally alert. It certainly didn’t seem as if this would be “the night.” Eventually, with the help of some medication, he drifted off to sleep. We stayed until about 11 p.m. when we sure he was in a very deep sleep. At 3:30 a.m. the phone rang. It was the hospital. It was over. Don had left this world of pain and suffering. His soul had been set free.
I first met Don in 1976. Like many others, he couldn’t remember my name and frequently called me Mathilda. I soon found out he loved practical jokes.
The new person at the dinner table had to be initiated. The first event involved a water glass. What I didn’t didn’t know, was there were tiny slits in the glass that dripped each time I took a drink. All the people “in the know” tried to keep a straight face until I figured it out. As well, Don had a mug that had frog eyes in the bottom. They remained hidden from sight in a cup of milk or orange juice until I had nearly finished my drink. I only heard about the rubber chocolates prank. Don would mix one in with a dish of chocolates and then watch to see who got it. On one occasion, the person who picked it up, put it in her mouth and chewed and chewed and then chewed some more. Eventually, she gave up and tried to slip it to Brownie, the dog. Family members dove to retrieve it before the dog swallowed it.
Don and the whole family enjoyed all the reactions these practical jokes evoked from different guests.
Don liked to drive new cars and trucks, the majority of which came from J.J. Stewart’s car dealership in Norwood. When it came time to trade cars, he would offer his car to his children for much less than its value. I know that my husband, Glenn, drove some spiffy looking cars as a young person. When I met Glenn, I was impressed with his luxurious Chrysler Cordoba with leather seats, air conditioning, cruise control and goodness knows what else.
As the years passed, Don and Annie realized they weren’t able to do all that they used to do. They chose to sell their home and to move into a much smaller residence located right in Havelock. It was a great location for them. Don could walk to the coffee shop to hang out with his buddies and it wasn’t nearly as much to clean for Annie. When the small house became too much, Don got busy researching retirement homes in Peterborough to find the perfect one. Once again, he and Annie downsized and moved to a lovely retirement home in Peterborough, where they lived very comfortably. In doing this, Don and Annie gave their family a wonderful gift. There is no house filled with everything from the past 68 years. We are grateful for that.
As a family, we knew they were getting well-balanced meals in the fancy dining room. Everything they needed was supplied. Someone came in to clean each week. The residence provided transportation to appointments. Don and Annie renewed some old friendships and established many new ones at Sherbrooke Heights Retirement Suites.
Don was a very intelligent man and a lifelong learner, self-taught in many cases. Well into his 80s, he was determined to learn how to use a computer. He even learned how to Skype with family members who were away.
The years have a way of speeding up. None of us knows exactly what lies ahead, but we know for sure that we will die. Knowing that, be sure to hug your loved ones often. Hold them close to your heart. Tell them how much you love them. You just never know.
Barbara Bush wrote, “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a wife, a friend, a child or parent.”
Rest in peace, Don. One of these days, we’ll be seeing you again.