There Was a Door…

I was on the inside perched on the comfy green recliner staring at our newly painted front door. I used to listen to music or the television while I played Word Chums on my iPad but now I sat quietly waiting for you to come home. We had the downstairs painted while we were on vacation. The painter finished the front door when we returned home so we witnessed how he painstakingly sanded the door and then applied 5 coats of the grey paint. He took great pride in his work. We had picked the lighter grey color because the original black door was so hot to touch from the afternoon sun. I never liked that black door.

Thinking you were delayed by traffic or had decided to swim more laps in the pool to prepare for our upcoming scuba trip, I delayed cooking our evening meal. You would always go on a crash diet and exercise to be sure you could still fit in your wet suit. We were both looking forward to our trip to Belize. We loved the calm turquoise warm waters of the Caribbean.

The plethora of tropical fish sported deep blues, bright yellows black and white stripes with such vividness it would take your breath away. Such a wide variety of fish: Sargent Major, rainbow parrot fish, French angelfish, trumpetfish, red lipped blennies, triggerfish, spotted drum, fairy basslet and bluehead wrasse are just a few we would see. There were also the bottom feeders such as the flat peacock flounder that looked like a pancake and was very good at camouflaging itself. You had to be careful not to touch certain things such as the long spines of the black sea urchin or you would suffer a stinging pain.

I never was fortunate to see a seahorse since they go deep and hide themselves well but Jim had seen them. He even witnessed a moray eel and an octopus battling over cave space while squirting ink in front of him. One time, he paid extra to do a dive with a group to witness nurse sharks feeding on chum. That same day I was with a snorkeling group and we saw a nurse shark sleeping under a coral reef shelf. There was always a lively competition with the divers and the snorkelers. But that day, I bragged that we saw our shark for free.

Jim was a scuba diver and loved to go deep but I had to stick to snorkeling due to ear surgery that could not tolerate the pressure in deep
water. Plus as an insulin pump wearer my diabetes was too brittle to go that deep. I would surely get the bends if I had to resurface quickly to take care of a low blood sugar. Peace just engulfed me and kept me safe as I floated and was one with the fishes. Magnificent lacy coral fans waved at me as I searched the sea for new treasures. It was very ethereal and I felt close to God in those calm waters.

Still patiently waiting for your return home and staring at that door, I glanced over at our little white fluffy Westie, Clancy. Unlike me, he was not looking for you. He lay curled up on a small tan and white rug sleeping soundly. He knew what I could not accept. A door serves two purposes. It can be an entrance or an exit.
Clancy heard the piercing soulful scream at 3:40am when I answered the ominous call from the hospital. Time of death 3:36am. Clancy watched intently as decisions were made to go to you. He climbed into the backseat of my son-in-law’s black Jeep that led the way in the darkness. Once in the hospital, Clancy led the way to your room pulling me along with the leash. We were in awe that he knew the way in the zig-zag pattern of the hospital corridors. I lifted Clancy onto your bed where you lay so motionless. He sniffed and laid his head on your chest with gentle resignation.

“You smelled the cancer. You knew my essence, my soul had left. I need you to be strong and watch over Mom. To protect her. To ease the pain of my absence. She will scream and cry and shout with anguish. You need to be her beacon of light in this darkness. Distract her with your brightly colored tennis balls and be sure to push the little ones under the sofa like you would do for me. You will think of other distractions to close that gaping wound in her heart. You have to stop her from staring at that door. Clancy this is the biggest challenge of your career as a therapy dog. You need to bring back her smile and laughter. Bring the spark back to her eyes for me. Be a good boy!”

That door was very symbolic to me. When the painter came to finish the door, normalcy was still in our lives. We had no idea that our lives were about to change drastically. On Monday you went to the doctor to see

about your indigestion that began while we were vacationing in Gatlinburg with our daughters, son-in-laws and grandsons, Joey and Nicholas.
Then the tests began. On Friday we learned that you had cancer that had metastasized to your liver. The following Thursday after a Pet scan you were in so much pain they told us to go to the emergency room. That was the last day you exited our door. You were gone in thirteen days never to walk through our front door again. The day before you passed, you took both my hands, kissed them and put them up to your cheeks. I just melted and the tears flowed. Luckily both the girls got to see you one last time after traveling from Michigan and Arkansas. When the family came, little Joey was afraid to enter the room. He said “Boompa is sick.” Later after we left the hospital to go home, you slipped away in the night not wanting to upset us and surprised the medical staff with your swift departure. I know we will be together again. Our love still lives in my heart . I see your smiling eyes reflected in the eyes of our daughters and grandsons. Love never dies.

Linda Freudenberger

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I recently retired as an occupational therapist after working for Cardinal Hill Rehab Hospital for 20 years working in various programs such as industrial rehab, outpatient, stroke unit, skilled nursing unit, pediatrics, and home health. I also worked on a federal grant with University of Kentucky called Agrabilty where we would visit farms and recommend adaptations to help injured farmers return to their jobs. After leaving Cardinal Hill I worked PRN at the Willows a skilled nursing facility. I grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from Penn State with a degree in social work. I moved away in 1975 when I got married. He was a sous chef with Hyatt Hotels We lived in Birmingham, Al, Chicago, Il, Memphis, Tennessee, Dearborn, MI and moved to Lexington, Ky in 1981 where I still reside. We raised both of our daughters here and I returned to college at Eastern Kentucky University in 1989 to pursue my degree in occupational therapy. I have always enjoyed writing and began college as an English major but switched my sophomore year to social work. I enjoy traveling and went on many trips to the Caribbean on dive/snorkeling trips with my husband. I have an 8 yr. old West Highland terrier that is a certified therapy dog. We visit hospitals, nursing homes and other venues to offer dog therapy. I also volunteer as a tutor at a local elementary school through the Carnegie Center in Lexington, KY.

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