I think the saying goes, ‘Appreciate what you have today, for it might not be here tomorrow.’
I believe the same concept should be applied to people.
I lost my Aunt Hazel last week. She’d been in declining health in recent months, and she seemed to spend more time in hospitals than her own apartment suite in Rosetown lately. After some decisions had been made surrounding her future, she was transported to long-term care down in Lucky Lake on Monday, October 21. I’d heard great things about the staff and the level of care down there, so I immediately saw the upside to this new change of scenery being applied to the rest of Hazel’s life.
She made close to six days in her new digs. Hazel Nelson closed her eyes and passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of Sunday, October 27 at the age of 89.
We’d been looking forward to putting together something for her 90th birthday, which at first was going to be a catered party in Rosetown, but after it was decided that she’d be moving down to Lucky Lake, we at least thought we could buy a cake and head down there to visit and ring in her monumental achievement.
That simply wasn’t in the cards. One day we were planning a party, and literally the next day, we were cleaning out the rest of her things in her apartment after getting the news of her passing.
It’s a sharp and painful reminder that life can change – or end – in a quick and heartbreaking manner.
As heartbreaking as it is to lose Hazel who, as the oldest of my mother’s siblings was the closest link to my maternal grandparents, we were provided with some great comfort when we learned that her final days were spent smiling, getting to know new friends in the facility in Lucky Lake, and heck, she even got to play the piano a few more times! Man, what I wouldn’t give to hear just one more tune from her. Of course, you can’t have Hazel on a piano without my late Uncle Lloyd on the guitar or the banjo.
Perhaps somewhere else far outside the realms of human understanding or comprehension, brother and sister are making beautiful music together again.
Getting the news of Hazel’s passing instantly took me back to losing my dad Jack in 2013. The circumstances were shockingly similar. Like Hazel, my dad had been in declining health at the time, and the poor old guy was being bounced from one facility to the next; basically, wherever they had a room that was available. Finally, he’d just been moved down to the long-term care facility in Dinsmore and was getting to know the lay of the land when he died on August 26 – he too hadn’t been in his new home long, having made two weeks. In other similarity to Hazel, the last relative Dad saw was one of his kids. Hazel’s last family that she saw was her daughter Terry, while the last family that Dad saw was me.
We think we have all the time in the world to see and visit the people that we love, even our oldest family members and friends. We think there’s some unwritten understanding we have with the known universe that, OK, this person is not to die in the immediate future, and we’re entitled to at least a few more years with them.
Except that isn’t how it works. Life can prosper and life can end with basically the snap of a finger. I’d hoped for more time with my dad; more visits in Dinsmore, more talks about his childhood, maybe even a few more drives around the country to check on the crops, but it wasn’t in the cards. We’d all hoped to visit Hazel in her new home and to celebrate her 90th birthday, but it wasn’t in the cards, and no one reading this is the proverbial ‘dealer’.
Hazel Nelson was an interesting woman, to say the least. She could be blunt, but her honesty was always coupled with compassion and a loving manner. I always shared genes with her, but I never really knew that I shared the same musical taste with her before I’d learned that she liked Hank Williams. I’m a big Hank guy myself, and I was looking forward to bringing my ‘Very Best of Hank Williams’ record to her 90th birthday celebration to play a few tunes.
Instead, my family and I are headed to her funeral in Rosetown on Wednesday, a day after what would’ve been her actual 90th birthday. We won’t have Hank together, Aunt Hazel, but the thought of being without you is enough to make a guy feel so lonesome that he could cry.
Points if you got the reference.
Here’s to you, Hazel. I hope that the music still plays wherever you are.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.