One year after Deborah’s passing I posted the following, reflective thoughts on how I was managing. I had no plans to post any additional pieces here, but I have a friend who’s “hanging in” today. Sometimes that’s all you can do –
Originally posted by Mike Whitmore, Friday, June 12, 2009, 7:07 PM
I can hardly believe it myself as it seems like yesterday, but it was a year ago today that I raced from the Hospice Center to pick up Alexis so we could all gather as a family to her bedside. Alexis completed an oil painting and she wanted mommy to see the finished painting she had worked on for several weeks. The painting is of a mother and daughter sitting together on an elegant park bench, dressed in white with matching hats.
That evening at the hospice we all remember Deborah opening her eyes at two distinct moments. Those of us with her recall these times with vivid clarity –
First, when her father, Doug, came to her bedside. He had traveled by train (he’s afraid to fly) to be at his eldest’s side. There was a very tender moment when her eyes widened with a look of recognition and love was shared though she could no longer speak.
And second, as Alexis showed Deborah the painting she completed.
If I recall correctly I believe that was one of the last times she opened her eyes before she passed away a few hours later. Deborah’s mother, Susan, and myself were the only two in the room when the final moment came.
The times when my heart is most tender is when I recall her sufferings. Oh, how my heart aches and the tears come so easily even at this moment. And then, if I welcome the thought, comes the joy of knowing she’s no longer there in that hospice bed.
Before we had children, back when we had only the Nissan truck with no AC, Deborah and I took a road trip to Durango. If you recall, we took several trips in that truck during the HOTTEST summer on record in Utah. We were, certifiably, crazy. (Not as crazy as her two brothers, however, who rode 50 miles in the back of that uncovered truck during a snowstorm with two sleeping bags and a tarp while IN SHORTS!)
We drove from Provo down to Durango to meet up with my dad, his wife and my sister for some fun in Mesa Verde. Cool place, unlike Utah. Utah was 115’ F and Mesa Verde was maybe 105’. We wore shorts and used that handy water bottle again.
Now I have a fear of heights. It’s silly, irrational, but REAL. And at one point in our adventure we had to climb a wooden, rickety, ancient ladder about 20’ almost straight up. Below us was the canyon above which the dwellings overlooked. I’m convinced archeologists, who have no idea what happened to the inhabitants of Mesa Verde, haven’t looked around in the bottom of that canyon for bones because I’ll bet most of them fall off this thing.
And what, to my surprise, was it not only one 20’ ladder, but you had to go sideways and then up a SECOND 20’ ladder. OSHA would have had a heyday here. No way were these things built to code.
Being the manly fella that I am I was trying to psych myself up for this <gulp> adventure. But I wear my heart on my sleeve and Deborah was having a grand old time teasing me. Oh yeah. She was a professional tease. Agents kept calling her offering $$$ and contracts. (Just ask her crazy brothers!)
So she’s teasing away, I’m trying to act manly in front of her and the rest of the family when we hear a bloodcurdling scream.
“NOOOO DADDY!! Don’t make me do this!!”
Some little girl, maybe 5 years old, was scared stiff. Frozen. Wouldn’t climb with the party. So her dad was scaling this contraption while picking her up (she’s frozen, mind you) and pulling her out towards himself and then putting her up one rung at a time. All the while she’s screaming and it’s echoing through the canyon, park rangers hearing this, I’m sure the bones down below were quaking and all the while I’m thinking, “You go girl!!”
At that moment I felt the same way, and while I couldn’t scream like a 5 year old inside Deborah knew that’s exactly how I was feeling. And she was having a heyday with it.
I laugh about that too now that I’m safe in a comfy chair and thinking back on that day.
But when Deborah passed I felt like I was frozen, unable to move, think or function. And I felt my Heavenly Father pulling towards him and helping me find the next rung. And I also know that Deborah was supporting me helping me to make it. She was and is that kind of friend and lady.
Life does go on in the Whiltmore home. Gabby just got baptized last Saturday And Amy made this amazing video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhVutTyGSKQ
But one day, not too far distant, my eyes will widen with recognition as did hers. And Alexis will sit next to Deborah, dressed in white on a very elegant bench in a very sacred place.