Charlie felt the very moment Hazel left. He couldn’t quite describe how he knew it, other than the sense of peace that filled the room and the energy that left her hand as he held it. It was also odd how he had imagined this very moment over the past little while, expecting nothing but sadness and grief to flood in. But it didn’t. At least not immediately. “I need to call the kids,” was the first definitive thought he had.
After three separate phone calls with John, James and Catherine, all of which he couldn’t really remember beyond relaying the news and making in-the-moment plans for what would be next, Charlie decided he should head downstairs. He kissed Hazel again, gently on her forehead, and opened the window for her. This was tradition in his family when someone passed, and it gave him some comfort. He remembered his key and headed out the door.
Gladys was waiting for the elevator as Charlie approached. “How is she doing?” Gladys asked hopefully. Charlie met her eyes, desperately wanting to reassure her, but knew he couldn’t. “She just went…just now.” Gladys reached over to give Charlie a hug. “I am so sorry Charlie. Are you ok?” Charlie just shook his head. “I’m not really sure. Right now, I just want to head down and let Debra know. I’m trying to figure out what we do in these situations.” Gladys looked sad. “I could tell Debra for you. I mean, I’m sure there are other things you’d rather do right now.” Charlie shrugged. “No, I think I want it to be me. I want to tell people. That’s just my way Gladys.” The elevator doors opened, and they got inside and made their way down in silence together.
Debra was sitting at a table with some of the other residents talking about Easter plans when Charlie looked into the activity room. “Hi Debra, can we chat?” Charlie asked as his voice cracked a bit. Debra slowly made her way over to the doorway where Charlie stood. They took a seat together on a sofa in the hallway. The look on Charlie’s face was one she knew all too well. He didn’t have to say a word. She took his hand in hers and they sat there for a while, looking out the window at the courtyard. The snow had just melted, and the trees were starting to bud. The crocus bulbs that Hazel had planted were just starting to poke through the mulch. It was Hazel’s garden. It would always be Hazel’s garden. After some time, Debra turned to Charlie. “I have some calls to make,” she said. He just nodded and remained seated looking out the window.
“What do you mean you don’t send a coroner?” Debra asked, flabbergasted. She was doing her best to coordinate everything. This was the first time anyone had passed away unexpectedly in the building. Other residents of the community had died in hospital. She was used to managing long term care, and seniors housing was so different. She discovered the vast differences between the two daily. She listened as she was instructed to make arrangements with a funeral home to collect the body. “But I’m not sure which one to call as I don’t have that information. This just happened,” she clarified. The man on the other end of the line did his best to explain. “Notify the next of kin. It is their responsibility to make arrangements,” he said. “That seems so harsh. The man’s wife literally just died and I’m to go upstairs and ask him who will collect the body? There has to be some protocol around this that’s not so insensitive,” Debra sighed. Alas, it appeared there wasn’t better protocol. She was going to have to bother Charlie.
Debra made her way up to the suite and gently knocked on the door. “Hi Debra.” Catherine answered the door with red rimmed eyes and tears streaming down her face. Debra’s stomach churned. There was no way she could ask. Not now. The family was in the middle of saying goodbye. “Who is it honey?” Charlie called out from the bedroom. “It’s Debra,” Catherine answered, choking back tears. “Tell her to come in,” Charlie insisted.
Debra was torn between consoling Catherine, coming inside to get the information she needed from Charlie, and breaking down and crying herself. “I’ll come back later,” she said. And it took all her energy to get to the elevator doors without letting them see her upset.