Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Requiem for the blue fairy

This week has been a toughie. Friday I was sick with the flu, and it lingered through Sunday. The kitty wasn't eating well and we resolved to take her to the vet on Monday to find out why she was a little trembly and a little disinterested in food.

Monday morning, I was up and ready to get back to work, and then...

Pepe couldn't walk. Her back feet wouldn't hold her. She dragged herself about miserably with a frightened expression, taking time to angrily lick her front paws or the bony girdle of her hipbone. She was frightened. We were frightened. I was sure it was the end. Pat took her to the animal hospital while I, sobbing discreetly til I was there, went to work and made a complete loon of myself by breaking down into hysterics.

The complete loon-ness of weeping frenziedly over my "only child" because I am sure she's at the end of her nine lives is compounded by two facts:

1) R., the sweet lady training me to take over her position as the office claims specialist, is a breast cancer survivor and first-generation cancer sufferer. Unfortunately, she is not the only person in that first generation to be hit. Her brother, whose family had arranged a Sunday get together in honor of his impending birthday, passed away after a long, painful war with lung cancer, on Sunday morning. She is relieved that he is no longer in agony, but you can imagine what a sick cat is to that loss... and yet, she held me in her arms and comforted me when I began to cry. I could not wish to take ANYTHING back as much as that crying jag.

2) Claudette, who was as smart, kind, devout, and good a woman as I have ever met, and who has raised a wonderful bunch of children, finally let go her iron grip on this world early Monday morning, and passed into the next.

I don't want to talk about the cat yet, except to say that she's at home and is doing surprisingly well, for a cat who cannot use her hind legs for no reason $1400 of tests could diagnose. I am still holding my breath regarding the fragile health of my baby.

I cannot talk about R.'s brother, as we never met, except to say that R. made me cry afresh when she enumerated the family members that had joined the Choir and announced, with calm joy, that her brother could play his music again.

I don't know Claudette well, but I know a few anecdotes. Those, I will share.

She had brain surgery just a week or so before the Super Bowl. She kept saying she wanted the Colts to win, as she had a C on her head, like a football helmet... we reassured her that both teams had a C. In this world of false modesty and myriad vanities, a woman who can take joy in the scars of her frightening surgical adventures is an amazing creature. While most people are shy about minor physical trivia like a scar or a crooked feature, she took a new, conspicuous mark on her shaved head and turned it into a bloom of beauty-- one that displayed her brilliance, humor, and lack of obsession with those minor details that do not matter unless we force them to. I can't even fault her for rooting for the Colts... heck, they won. :)

Two nuns came up from Mexico to visit her and pray for her: they had each been the general of their order, and they came to lavish their love and their love of God on her. That's pretty neat, and makes me almost wish I were Catholic... such support is a beautiful thing. I didn't know this, but before she was married, Claudette was a nun. Her son is a priest. Her family are close-knit, enviable in every way for their mutual love and their decency, religion, and kindness. I don't think she ever left it far behind.

She knew she was going to pass away and she helped to prepare for it, although she did everything in her power to remain on Earth. She shopped for coffins to pick one that was shaped well for her frame and was not a hideous color.

They sent the hideous color she detested, a powder blue coffin with a VERY blue lining. Her daughter was appalled... until she remembered that her mother would have laughed.

She said up until close to the end that she wanted to be buried in her blue fairy costume. What's her blue fairy costume?

The whole family showed up for a costume party at a fancy dress restaurant near one Halloween. Claudette was a blue fairy... I think the one from Pinocchio... and the family were dressed as the Village People.

They were the only ones in the restaurant in costume. It was the wrong day.

They stayed to party anyway, and although when they walked in a pin could be heard dropping, people applauded them for staying and having fun. Claudette went from table to table, granting wishes with a wave of her "magic wand."

Her daughter is going to slip a couple things into the coffin with Claudette... the detachable wings from that costume, and a magic wand.

And that's what you need to know about Claudette.

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