She had just gotten out of the hospital after a hard month’s stay and
was in need of 24-hour care.
From that first day at Raven’s bedside in her home, to that last day
at her bedside in Kindred Hospital, I felt bonded to Raven — a
non-relative kind of family person in my life — in a certain kind of
Raven was an unusual woman in many ways, but from the perspective that
I got to know her during her long illness, what showed up the most was
that she knew how to rally forth just at the point when things looked
their worst. During the months I cared for her, along with my daughter
and a couple of others who were willing and able to help with her
round-the-clock care, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that she
rallied back to a better state of affairs at least five times.
Although Raven and I were friends back in the day, and she always
enjoyed the fact that I was the one who introduced her to my husband,
we lost touch with that friendship over the years for whatever reason.
But I quickly need to add that although we saw each other just a
handful of times during the 23 years that she had been with my ex —
with whom I always remained friends — I got to see her almost every
day during her recent health challenge, and we developed a whole new
different kind of friendship.
It may seem strange to some people that I would either visit or care
for my ex-husband’s wife; it did not seem strange to me, my ex, or to
Raven herself. I personally believe that loving one’s neighbor (that
would be one’s friends, relatives, ex-relatives, “enemies,” as well as
relatives of friends, relatives of ex-relatives or “enemies,” or even
strangers) means to do them no harm and to help them wherever,
whenever, and as one can. It’s the old “Do unto others…” Golden Rule
of life. And who wouldn’t want someone, if not many someones, to care
about them and be there for them in the last days of their journey on
Raven’s final months were hard, but she was blessed with those who
cared about her. As I mentioned in my first column about Raven back in
January of this year, there were those who simply surfaced when they
found out she needed her house cleaned and/or rearranged to
accommodate the hospital bed and all the equipment and supplies she
would need to keep going. They showed up at the house and did what
needed to be done. Her adopted daughter, who has a penchant and a
knack for cooking, prepared meal after meal, not just for Raven, but
for her husband too, keeping him as well-fed as she could. Raven’s bio
daughter, in addition to everything or anything else, would spend
hours on the phone, tracking down this piece of information or that,
and consulting with various health personnel, to be sure everything
needed was being done. Her granddaughter, who left college to come
home and care for her grandmother, might need a little extra credit
for doing something that didn’t come all that easily to her. Some are
called to nurse, and some are not. Yet those who do it anyway, the
best they can, are to be commended. My daughter — and I am not saying
this because I am her mother — was like an Angel of Life, giving her
all, as she always does, to help someone in such need. It was no
wonder to me that while many felt Raven might have lost her smile or
her energy to communicate, she would almost always have a smile for my
daughter and communicate with her in some way. Other family members,
considering their own situations and personal challenges, were there
at the end, joining her at her bedside for their final hellos and
goodbyes. On her last full day of life, I counted 15 people in her
room, which makes it 16, since I did not count myself. Some there
would stay till the very end, which was to be the next day.
Raven suffered many changes in her life that would bring an ordinary
woman down. Yet she kept on, bravely and staunchly trying for a chance
to live. It is not up to me to say what kept her going, but it is
perfectly okay for me to say what I observed. Her husband visited her
three times a day: very early before work, on his lunch hour, and
after work, staying till late in the evening. He never failed. He was
there with all those who were dealing with her physical needs, doing
as much, if not more, for her personally. He oversaw her medications,
her treatments, her vital signs. He didn’t let anything get past him.
He was an Angel of Life for her
Not that I have been quite as personally involved with anyone else
during their last days (except for my late husband, Hani, whom I cared
for at home by myself, and was with all the time, including his moment
of transition), but it was amazing to see such dedication toward a
Raven started to fade this month, and we saw no signs of rallying this
time. She would sleep most of the 24 hours a day. She needed three
machines to stay alive. It was never her desire to have that kind of
existence, yet, until she knew it was time to go and made it clear,
those machines kept her bound to an artificial, mechanical world that
was ready to let her go.
With great anguish, Raven’s Ron did the only thing that it was right
to do at that time: He allowed Raven, who was now ready by her own
previous and present agreement, to return to her natural state of
affairs without the machines.
And so Ron, one of Raven’s Angels of Life, allowed her to peacefully
and painlessly slip into the mode of getting ready for the natural
journey to the other side. And on that day and at that moment when
that particular Angel of Life met Raven’s Angel of Death, there was a
grave and solemn exchange: Raven gave up the body that would no longer
serve her… in order to let her soul take wing.
Farewell, earthly Raven. Now on to your next adventure. Farewell!
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She
writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.