Love is the beauty of the soul ~ Saint Augustine
Bernard Richard Schiffer January 24, 1931 ~ March 9, 2014
The house is quiet; so different, so empty. The beautiful aroma of the stargazer lilies fills the house as one by one, they bloom in their mystical way. Just as the lilies transition from a small bud to a beautiful flower; TLO’s transition into eternal life was just as mystical, and just as beautiful. Holding him in my arms as he took his last breath on Sunday, March 9th at 1:20 pm was surely a paradoxical honor, however we would not have had it any other way.
Our Caregiving journey ended on Sunday, March 9, yet this is not the end of our love, we just get the chance to know and love each other in a different way. Words can’t describe how I feel at this moment, but I take comfort in knowing that he is pain-free and he left this world with a beautiful smile on his face. When I placed his head back down on the pillow after his last breath, I knew that he was in a better place; no stress, no strife, no agony, only peace. I’m sure my faith will grant me those same gifts in the months ahead.
We have been on this Caregiving journey for over two years now, yet it seems like yesterday when I wrote my first post on ‘The Purple Jacket.” Writing proved to be therapeutic for both of us, however, it is strange to realize that the only two posts that we will never get to share with each other is this post and the post from last week, Approaching The Final Destination. I do take comfort in knowing that TLO enjoyed reading about our Caregiving journey as much as I enjoyed writing about it.
The comfort and love I have felt from family and friends over the past week has been heartfelt. May it continue. While on this Caregiving journey, so many people have touched our lives along they way. I am so grateful for all your words of encouragement. Denise Brown from Caregiving.com and her vast network of Caregivers who have been our extended family during our journey, are friends for life. Even in the midst of the intensity of daily Caregiving, Denise and our extended family have been there at a moment’s notice to extend comfort. Word’s can’t describe how wonderful TLO’s primary care physician, Dr. Milica Starcevic of Broward Health, has been to us during our time in her care. Dr. Starcevic’s genuine care and concern for us will always have a special place in my heart. It goes without saying how wonderful the entire staff at Gold Coast Hospice treated us as well. The word that comes directly to mind when thinking about the staff at Gold Coast Hospice is ‘authentic.’ There was not one staff member who walked into our room who was not authentic in their care for both of us. Like ministry, working in Hospice is a special calling, not everyone can do it, but the staff that we met from the administrator down, was just splendid. We never had a worry or concern, the entire Hospice staff honored us and our relationship.
For me, life does move on, just in a different way. As much as the two of us talked about ‘this day,’ one can never prepare for an experience like this. He is forever in my heart, sealed with that lasting smile he left for me when he made his transition. One thing that TLO asked, well…demanded…is that I start to take better care of myself. That is my immediate intention, to create some ‘healing ties’ so that I can become stronger mentally and to get physically fit because on Monday, March 10th I haven’t only started a new chapter in my life, I started a new Caregiving journey as well. That new journey is to be a Caregiver for myself. Many caregivers have this trait where we put our needs second to the needs of our Caree. It is easy to say we are going to take better care of ourselves, but harder to do when you’re in the midst of Caregiving. My advocacy in the days, months and years ahead will focus on the importance of Caregivers taking better care of themselves because it is important not only for the Caregiver, but important for the Caree as well. If I can learn to be half the caregiver to myself as I was to TLO, I think I’ll be in pretty good shape. Following this path allows me to be with him while honoring his wishes for me to take better care of myself: It’s a ‘win/win’ don’t you think?
As I write this final Caregiving post on ‘The Purple Jacket”, I do not have any fancy words to share or meaningful slogans to portray, I just want to tell you about a story of love. Two people connecting from different sides of the religious aisle, making a go at life, while forming a meaningful relationship that even to this day, is difficult to describe. TLO might have been slight in stature, but he stood tall in life. With few regrets and quite a bit of joy, TLO lived his life his way. I have learned so much about being strong from him. He was and still is my best friend, pal and partner. My Caregiving cape wanted to fix everything inside of his body; eleven years just whisked by within one week in hospice with me asking that final day…”Lord, can’t I have just one more hour, one more minute to know him..to love him?” As I gently laid his head back on the pillow after he made his transition, I was comforted to see a smile on his face. I knew he was pain free and I knew that he left this world in love and yes, he did beat Cancer!
In the weeks ahead, there will be a few announcements on ‘The Purple Jacket’ about special events that are in the works to celebrate the life of Bernard Richard Schiffer. Our Caregiving journey has been documented over the past seven months with reporters from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel; filled with video and pictures of the two of us, we look forward to sharing that article with you when published is just a few short weeks. I will be writing again in the months ahead, but this space here on ‘The Purple Jacket’ is reserved for my best friend, pal and life partner, Bernard Richard Schiffer for without him, there would be no ‘Purple Jacket!’
But for now, I must take a breath and get some rest.
You see…We Might Have Had Cancer: But Cancer NEVER had us. The thing we have is Love and come to think about it, Love is the most important gift of all!