While I credit God for all of them, I mostly have written how He worked through my dad to bring me purpose. Purpose to become sober, so that I could properly advocate for him (at least as best I could); purpose in my writing, so I could help educate others not only about my dad’s rain brain disease, Pick’s (BvFTD), but also about the disgraceful state of elder care in America.
But the other person who God worked miracles in my life through, no doubt an angel on this earth, was my neighbor Monica Elizabeth.
Today we said goodbye to Monica in what was perhaps the most beautiful, most purposeful, most uplifting and peaceful memorial mass I ever have attended.
Monica, the father said, was what they called a “prayer warrior.” Boy was she ever.
Even when I didn’t want to, even when I was still drinking, we held hands in prayer in her front yard so many times on occasions when I wasn’t sure how I ever would see the light of the next day. And the light of the next day always came.
Monica too, the father said, had healing powers. He described an incident where she healed a woman with a crippled hand during a service at a church in Annawan, Ill.
Roll your eyes if you want, but the prayers she said for me are why I am here today. I have no doubt in my mind about that.
God planted next door the perfect neighbor
My dad purchased, for a second time, the home I was brought home to as a baby four years ago. I own the home now after buying out my brother’s half when dad died.
When dad and I moved in together four years ago, what a blessing it was that Monica was next door. For the first six months, dad and Monica sat in the yard together, joked, talked about old times. Monica lived with her son, Paul, just the two of them. Paul wasn’t much older than me and made it pretty clear from day one that he didn’t like my kind.
In truth, Paul and I had a lot in common. We both lived in our parents’ basements and were doing the best we could caring for a parent with dementia. In the beginning, we both drank a lot of beer, blared a lot of music, and I know we both thanked God at the time that our parents were amusing each other and keeping each other occupied.
For as long as it lasted.
My dad’s disease progressed quickly. Soon Monica was telling my dad off and screaming at him to stay out of her yard. The next thing you knew dad was starting fires in the house by throwing burning cigarettes in the trash can. A year later, dad was in memory care.
The nightmare I endured serving as dad’s advocate after his memory care facility was sold to a new company has been well documented. Lord knows there is no use in rehashing it again. I’m just glad to have come out of it all alive.
When I became sober and really began to see the dark side of people who didn’t like seeing me sober, I retreated, and my neighbor Monica was all I had. We prayed all the time. She watched over my house when I was away; I watched over hers every moment I was home and awake, especially when Paul wasn’t home.
We had each other’s backs. I think she worried about me more than I worried about her, if that’s even possible.
Shortly before my dad died, Paul kept getting thinner, and thinner, and thinner. As it turned out, Paul had colon cancer and it was caught very late. It took several months for him to get an appointment with the VA to see a doctor, he explained to me. Before he died, we had become friends. I was mowing he and Monica’s lawn (he was a jaundiced bag of bones even a month prior to him ending up in a nursing home, his mother apparently unaware or in denial about his imminent death) and he was offering me his beer that he could no longer drink, which I politely declined.
A dead cat, a confused woman filled with sorrow
So while I was trying to watch out for dad in the memory care, fighting battle after battle related to the substandard care I felt he was getting there, Monica had her first bad bout with dementia while Paul was having surgery at the VA Hospital.
Monica’s cat died, right there on her lap. A panicked Monica dialed 911.
When the police came, they just thought the cat was sick, and asked me if I could drive Monica and her cat to the vet. I said I would, and the cop left. But as it turned out, the cat was dead.
Monica held on to the dead cat all weekend long. Nobody could reach any sort of official elder services agency to help her. She wouldn’t let anyone bury the cat.
Finally, the following Monday, officials from the elder ombudsman’s office buried the cat and had Monica placed in a facility for a couple of weeks until Paul came home. The entire incident was outrageous and, to me, just another black eye on my community’s disgraceful elder care network.
My dad died in September, Paul died in November, Monica died last week.
Monica and I became very close. After dad died, I had more time to spend with her, which was important as she declined very fast after Paul’s death. Eventually, she was made a ward of the state and taken from her home. She died in a nursing home a short time later.
Praising God for the end of so much suffering
So today, on this beautiful spring today, saying goodbye to Monica wasn’t a reason to cry. It was a reason to once again praise God for the end of this woman’s suffering, a mother brokenhearted after losing her son, who only was in his 50s. A woman approaching 90 whose mind was ravaged by dementia, much like my dad’s.
Monica’s service was lovely. The father read a parable that Jesus told his disciples. “The Kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise,” he said.
The parable described how the wise virgins bought enough oil for their lamps. The bridegroom ran late, and when he arrived, only the wise virgins were able to greet him because their lamps were not out of oil.
The message, the father said, was “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
The parable was especially appropriate given that Monica made wedding dresses for a living and at one time had a regionally famous bridal boutique.
I have no doubt my neighbor had healing qualities. When I look at my life today, sober, fulfilled, albeit a little damaged from the traumas I have endured, I have plenty of oil for my lamp.
I can thank my dad, and my dear friend Monica too, for bringing such light into my life. A life I hope soon to be able to live more fully, for I know that’s what my dad and Monica both would want for me.
RIP my dear English neighbor, Monica Elizabeth.