No matter what you put in an obituary it never tells the story you want the world to know. Catherine was a mother of four but she was so much more than that. She was like a second mother to me. For the last four years she has lived at Sunrise of Fox Chapel aka Concordia of Fox Chapel. I cannot begin to say enough about the staff there. In the times that we could not be there, the ladies that treated her like family. They laughed with her, listened to her stories and even gave her those extra midnight snacks that she loved so much. They truly took wonderful care of her. For the longest time I spent three days a week helping with her and spending time with her. Sometimes she knew me, sometimes she didn't. As hard as that was, it didn't matter. What I found out through the stages of the disease of Alzheimer's that I would never have known any other way was in many ways a blessing of sorts. I had never really known anything private about her life growing up. Spending time with her as she would sundown, I learned so much. We sang together, we visited her past through the vivid memories she held so dear. Her mother died at a young age and she was most certainly a tom-boy. Every day she would swim across the Allegheny River in Verona. She loved the water so very much. She used to drive the family boat every day to take her father and brother's to work. She would swim to the islands in the Allegheny River and climb the trees and imagine she was on a desert island.
Sometimes she thought I was an old childhood friend and we would re-live roller skating, dancing, singing and enjoying life the way she did so many years ago. We held hands and talked about boys and eventually I learned the romantic love story of Catherine and Vince. All the beloved details of their romance, their engagement and eventual marriage was so beautiful to hear. They were stories none of us had ever been privy to and yet to her, they were present day.
In those hours, days, months and eventually years; I learned who Catherine really was. She was an amazingly strong woman, wife and mother.
As she began to fade and her memories of us also faded we became friends of a different kind. It was never a chore to be with her, not even at the end. Although she became speechless and unable to walk or eat by herself, there were times that she would look at me and give me that special wink she always did with her left eye. We held hands, she so loved the touch of another. To her, that was so special. She would snuggle against you and hold your hands and just be content. She communicated by touch in such a special way.
The night she passed away we went to see her and tell her how much we loved her and that it was time to be with her family in heaven and that when God and his angels came for her, to go with them and know she would always remain in our hearts. It wasn't easy, it still isn't. But even though she only took a breath every 45-60 seconds and was completely comatose, when I told her I loved her and it was time to be with her mother again, I saw that left eye flutter and her glance came down for a moment. It was that moment in time that I was sure she knew who I was and that she would take with her the memories of our times together, at least I hope so.
The holidays will never be the same without her. She always looked forward to me having Thanksgiving dinner here at our home and having all my themed trees & garlands up for her to see. She loved all the decorations; her eyes always lit up like a child on Christmas Morning. Christmas Day we always went to their apartment, so Thanksgiving Day was her day to be mesmerized. It will be hard to not have her with us this year. Our daughter is having the family dinner this year, it is too soon for me to go through it all right now. I will however, think of her as I decorate for Christmas in her honor this year.
Vince is holding up as well as can be. I can't imagine being married for 66 years to the same person but hope to find out. There were good times and bad, but their love never faltered. We are helping him, as a family to make it through this next chapter of his life. He is 92 and plans to live to be 100. I think he can do it although he misses the love of his life so much. He has dementia and has good and bad days but is now in a facility that allows him to come and go but provides meals, housekeeping, trips and so much more. It is a blessing to know there are people there when we can't be.
Catherine, you left a legacy and a beautiful family that will remember you always. Your warmth, your kindness, the many things that made you "you", will always be here. I look forward to the day when we are reunited again. We can dance, sing, swim or whatever you want. It will just be nice to hold your hand once again and tell you how much I love you.
All my love,