|Lisa and Aviva|
Lisa's rose garden
© Joy Krauthammer
|Lisa and Aviva|
holding Lisa's swim 'noodle'
© Joy Krauthammer
|Lisa on Lake Balboa bench as Joy kayaks on lake|
© Joy Krauthammer
I would pick up Lisa and drive her to many events; Simchas, parks, meetings (Temple Ahavat Shalom and Hadassah). Lisa always enjoyed. I loved Lisa.
In memory of my friend, Lisa. May her memory be for a blessing. Zichronah Livrachah
May Lisa’s family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.
Photos above show Lisa and my daughter Aviva.
They loved each other.
April 11, 2009
Lisa, of blessed memory, died last night before sundown, finishing second day Passover,
almost Erev Shabbat, 6:40 PM, April 10, 2009, 16 Nissan 5769.
This is Sephirat HaOmer, Counting of the Omer, Day One, Chesed sheB'Chesed,
loving kindness within loving kindness (unconditional love.
Lisa and I shared loving kindness / chesed of true deep friendship with each other.
From Today’s Daily Dose, words of wisdom from the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Life in a Day by R. Tzvi Freeman
"A day is more than a passage of time -- it is a passage of life.
"Before you were formed in the womb your days were crafted, numbered and set in place. They are chapters of the lessons you came here to learn, facets of the wisdom this world imparts, gateways to the treasures that belong to this lifetime alone.
"Each day enters, opens its doors, tells its story, and then returns above, never to visit again. Never -- for no two days in the history of the cosmos will ever be the same."
Lisa would have appreciated reading this quote.
I would read Jewish books to Lisa as we walked each morning for an hour. In later years because I had more speed than Lisa, I needed to criss-cross the street like a slalom to pace down my distance. Because of Lisa’s heart pacemaker, we had to change our path and I would then drive us down the hill to a more flat walking area, than the gentle hill where we lived. We always discovered new leaves, seed pods, buds, flowers, beautiful purple weeds and grasses to admire no matter how many times we walked in circles around some streets. We had love affairs with an aromatic eucalyptus tree, a peeling bark Australian melaleuca tree, magnolias and certain barking dogs. We explored the seasons and always said prayers of thanks. Lisa finally only a couple years ago, planted her own small magnolia tree with many velvety buds like a pussy willow.
As we walked daily and learned together, I would read Jewish quotes (teachings) to Lisa and we would discuss them. Lisa was not so open at first to learning about Kabbalah, but over the years she eased into it as I shared teachings. Lisa liked my Rabbi Rami Shapiro books. (We read Rami in the indoor mall while window shopping before opening hours on inclimate days. We read a little Rumi, too.) Lisa also loved the annual spiral bound CLAL calendars that we would send for which were filled with Jewish rituals and blessings. Lisa actually used hers for calendaring.
Our first book around 19 years ago was Living Each Day by Rabbi Abraham Twerski.
Opening the book, which Lisa and I studied from every day, and I now read in the zechut / merit of Lisa, may her neshamah / soul have a sweet aliyah / ascent to Heaven, I turn the pages to Nissan 16, Lisa’s future yahrzeit dates:
“In every generation a person should consider himself as though he was personally liberated from Egypt.” (Haggadah)
Mitzrayim: Boundaries, restrictive limitations. Lisa was very angry when she was first restricted from driving about two High Holidays ago. She had her own mitzrayim. (Not driving should have happened sooner.) For herself she would not give up driving (even though she did not know where she was) but for the sake of her son, she told me, because she did not want him to worry about her. (She told me how she had driven in circles.) Baruch HaShem, a good mother, Lisa gave up driving, and also with great difficulty, felt that she was giving up her life without driving. Never before had I heard Lisa literally cry. She sat on her large chair and cried. For awhile she insisted that she keep the unused car in her garage. (And why not?) Lisa could NOT go to the “Y” to exercise when she gave up driving unless someone offered her a ride. Many people at the Y loved Lisa and she was very touched, she told me, when they remembered her, with calls and gifts, even during her exile. Lisa was humble.
During the Holocaust there were external boundaries from oppression that Lisa would tell me about.
She told me how her mother, z’l took money to the jail to get out Lisa’s father, z’l before his factories were taken over. They escaped and made new lives for themselves, and helped many others in many holy spiritual ways. Lisa told me extraordinary tales about her gifted parents. Lisa's mother was the first woman to get a driver's license in her village and gave up the horse and buggy.
Lisa had to learn and accept in her later years while still at home, beginning just a few years ago, that she needed protection with a watchful eye, but she did not appreciate having aides in the house. (She called these Filipino women, “nurses”. They were hired following a couple of fainting falls.) They interfered with her own boundaries, although she needed help when her short-term memory was failing. Lisa hated being treated as “a child” or “stupid” which she clearly was not and she told them so! Just as Lisa did, I had to learn to accept having a private conversation with a shadow present. Lisa learned to let aides go to another room, so she could have privacy when I visited.
Sometimes in the last couple of years of home living, Lisa hated my differing or correcting opinion (she was confused) and angrily said, “You think I’m senile?” which of course, she was to some degree and never knew. I had to learn not to disagree nor offer reality, because Lisa had to be right. Lisa would blame me for things over and over again that I had nothing to do with. It didn't feel good having to defend oneself.
The dementia was Lisa’s inner restrictive limitation, her mitzrayim / her narrow place which she had no control over. It kept Lisa in confusion and with present short-term memory loss, although her childhood history she never lost. She was the best story teller about her awesome parents of blessed memory. (Her parents were creative, generous pillars of overseas Jewish community.) That confusion gave Lisa fear because although only walking around the corner from her home, she did not know where she was, did not recognize the homes that we had walked past for a couple decades, and was questioning trust that I (and the aide) would get her back home safely. Lisa continued on our walks and always loved being friendly and speaking to strangers along the way. I never saw her outgoing in the 'facility'.
At the same time, this memory loss gave Lisa freedom not to be upset with anything, i.e. the condition of food, or the mistakes the caregivers made. A minute later, she had no recollection. She was pleased with everything. I could see sometimes the way the food looked on the plate in the Alzheimer’s unit, and she ate it. In my presence, she was always gracious to the facility workers.
I decided to have a sensitive conversation with Lisa while she was still at home because at times she was not so complimentary to her aides and they came to me for guidance (as I acknowledged them). Lisa was not saying “thank you” because it--whatever they were doing --was their “job,” she told me when I spoke to her about this issue. It had to have been the 'dementia' which gave a stroke of arrogance to Lisa, but she listened to me about this a couple times, in disbelief, and then one day I heard her "thank" the aide. It was not easy for me to guide/correct my elder friend, my mentor for these last decades but I decided that her aides would be less upset if she said, "thank you." (Sometimes her behavior was painful to me.)
Our roles had reversals. I was her listening/being present, dear friend through her husband’s z'l long disability (Joe, 15 years her senior, died in 1998), and then she was bikkor cholim worker / visiting the sick. Lisa understood my family circumstance when I was a caregiver for my husband, z'l. We laughed about the similar difficulties. Laughter is healing. I had cared for Lisa doing Bikkur Cholim with her, listening, and emotionally supporting her when she was a caregiver for her husband, until Joe died and then I offered comfort and recreation. I found the caregiver for Joe. Poor Lisa had to put up with so much with a stranger in the house. We laughed. (Then it was my turn.)
Lisa has used this Passover to ‘pass over’. Lisa's soul is eternal. Her body exhausted its usefulness on this earth. Her vessel, although it had been so strong (even with cancer and pacemaker), after 90 years, gave out. Lisa had experienced too many falls the last year, leaving her bruised and a prisoner of pain, meds, arm slings and walkers. Lisa's mind was no longer communicating in her favor. She didn't complain. I think Lisa explained that her Germain background gave her certain personality traits and being weak or helpless was not one of them, which is why when she finally cried, it surprised her.
Yochanan ben Bag Bag “A person of ninety when he walks bends over beneath the weight of years.” Rashi says that “a 90 year old is helpless, and ready fo the grave”. The Mishna tells us that “at the age of ninety, a person’s entire time should be spent in prayer and in praise of G*d.” Tosfos Rabbi Akiva Eiger. (Pirkei Avot 5:24)
A year ago Lisa was telling me that she was “ready to go.” I asked her what she wanted her matzeivah / grave stone to say, and she responded, “Lisa Enjoyed Life.” And, “She Loved Her Family.” She told me that I could share this with her family, as she surely was not doing that.
Lisa, with 90 years and two weeks of life experience was 28 years my senior, and my friend for about 25 years, living two houses away, down the hill. I told Lisa when I turned 60 as a Simchat Chochmah, a Joy of Wisdom woman, that she was my “mentor.” Lisa gave me advice whether I wanted it or not, but she was not interested in leaving a 'legacy'. (No, I have not colored my grey hair back to brown.) All her advice was for my best because she loved me. She wanted me to be "happy, as her daughter was". Lisa saw things in my life that I did not, and enlightened me.
Lisa always invited my guests (which were mostly my daughter and her husband) to come swim in her pool since I had a rare Valley home without a pool. (That’s a story.) My mother-in-law remembers visiting Lisa at her pool. Aviva's husband and friends remember being invited. Lisa totally loved the attentiveness that my daugher, Aviva, lovingly gave to her and Joe. Aviva as a child learned to dive and swim in Lisa’s pool. (See the recent photos.) She had me extend invitations to other neighbors. One day they came over, not to swim but to hear me play my dozen crystal and Tibetan singing bowls as Sound Healing for Lisa set up in the garden. When some local Senior Club people (that she barely knew) lost their electricity on a hot summer’s day or two during Lisa’s last summer at home, Lisa had them swim and sleep over when they asked. (I kept up my 'antennas' since Lisa barely knew them.) Sometimes women would pick Lisa up to take her to a concert, and she had no idea who they were, nor their names. I would try to be there when they came so that I could carefully get their names and where they were going.
Lisa loved telling people how we met. She had heard about me from her shul friend when moving in, and at that time, I brought flowers over to welcome her to the neighborhood and we’ve been friends ever since for roughly 25 years.
I had a real challenge because I did not care for dogs. I was scared of them ever since being bitten by a barkless Basenji as a teen and also as a child. Shadow, Lisa’s huge wolf-shepherd, and I became friends and I transcended my fear with this dog. I had to. Shadow would stand as tall as I on his back paws to greet me so that I could hold his front paws. Trust. Shadow reacted strongly by racing around the pool when I would float motionless on my back. I think he died about a dozen years ago this month. I was sad. Lisa decided against another dog.
On our walks, Lisa always was the first to greet the dogs on leashes and behind fences. What a ruckus we caused. Lisa was dignified and friendly. Lisa fed all her leftovers to the cats in the neighborhood who met at her home. They would bring their kittens to her. There were hawks overhead, and I would tell Lisa that yes, I continued to see the kitties. Lisa supplied the wild birds with seed and she would watch them through her kitchen window. I would try to get rid of the ants by the kitchen door that loved the cat food, as did the opossums. Inside, Lisa kept her grandson’s fish, turtles and bird. She wanted me to greet her pets, and not ignore them; even the turtle sculptures I had to greet by name. Lisa saw the preciousness in life and gave thanks to G*d. Her prayer was private, unlike mine.
Lisa enjoyed noticing the same red airplane flying overhead each day at the same time as we swam in her pool. At other times, I would call Lisa to go in and stay inside her home as helicopters circled overhead, which they did when trouble was happening. (The very night that I moved in, several years before Lisa, there was a (welcoming) helicopter over my roof looking for "Casper", the invisible robber.
A decade ago, when Lisa's great-grandchildren were a few years old, Lisa had me come over on Saturday nights to play with them, while they visited. They liked the little artistic (ceramic, leather, wood, cloisonne') boxes I would give to Lisa and fill with love, as well as enjoying the cutest turtle with a wiggly head. Will I recognize the grown up kids at the funeral? Because of specific concerns Lisa had for one grandson, I would forward certain suggestions to him, which pleased Lisa. She adored them all and only wanted the best for family.
My friend Lisa and I laughed alot together, a great tsuris remedy, and I will miss her and our laughs. Lisa's funeral is this Monday. She is now with her beloved husband Joe, and her parents, z'l whom she respected and loved so very much. She may even run into Shadow, especially if he is still racing around a heavenly swimming pool.
Lisa, from Ams(h)tetten, Austria and Cochabamba, Bolivia, died last night. Growing up, her name was pronounced Lizalotteh. Lisa told me a really strange story about Joe, her second husband’s, first wife having her same name in Bolivia. She was shocked to see that name on the dead wife’s gravestone, during one of her first dates because it was her own name.
Gratefully, I saw Lisa a few nights ago in the Northridge Golden Nest, Residential Care Facility for the Elderly, where thankfully she lived since about a month ago. Lisa was no longer where I had been visiting her for a year at Brighton Gardens (Sunrise). Her family moved her to this excellent, Israeli run private home. (It was the same home that I had told Lisa about just over a year ago and gave the information to her family. I have performed there so I was familiar with it.) So they would visit, I had told Chabad volunteers (SOS) when Lisa was in the other facility and now had moved to the private home.
I went to say “goodbye” to Lisa a few nights ago when she was placed on morphine, and a hospice nurse, just hired, sat by her side. I bent over the bed and kissed Lisa’s head, stroked her hands, and told her how much I and my daughter love her.
I told Lisa stories of how we had spent time together and how much she meant to me, so that she could take that love with her on her new journey to Shamayim / Heaven. Lisa was sleeping through my talking but I know that her soul could hear me. In the past, we had deep serious confidential conversations with each other that spanned many topics and especially personal ones. Lisa said she never discussed these topics with others. We spent part of practically every day together when we lived near each other. Lisa would hear speakers from the Women's League of Voters and guide me on my election ballot casting since I paid no attention to politics. I just took Lisa's ballot, copied it and voted.
Our favorite times together included our excursions with me driving, our daily walks enjoying nature, and our swims in her magnificent pool. Swimming was the best because Lisa promised her family that she would not go in alone, so I got to swim with her which I loved, until we were both wrinkled “prunes”. I have already written stories about these times (and they are "blog posts" included below). I gave up other great events just to go swimming. Lisa had already worked out in the morning with swim weights at the "Y", so in her pool, she mostly was happy to be held afloat with her “noodles.” Lisa loved the noodles, the styrofoam floaties in different pastel colors that I bought for her every summer. I also bought her large balls which she would sit on in the water. What simple pleasures. At night, if the noodles were left out, we would find them in the morning all chewed up by some wild animal. When Lisa was a child, her father who knew how to do these things, built her and her brother their own carousel, bowling alley and pool. As Jews, they needed a place for play. They had holidays in Italy.
Lisa thought of me as her daughter, she confided to me. She listened to me and cared. Couple times she said she thought of me as a sister that she never had. I think I was the only one in the world from whom she would accept a physical hug (outside of her immediate family, most likely).
I was always a good friend to Lisa and drove her to her Hadassah meetings and shul and Sisterhood meetings when it was at night or she could no longer drive, and drove everywhere in between where we enjoyed life. Lisa was loyal to her own shul, Ahavat Shalom, and rarely went to one of mine, although I always invited her especially when I was performing. Lisa loved her rabbi. She loved volunteering in her shul's gift shop, and having her adult religious Confirmation ceremony following much Torah study. I was very proud of Lisa. I would go through her Jewish organizational news letters, and calendar dates with her so that she could go and enjoy. Hadassah Book Club met at times at her home and Lisa was a voracious reader with piles of books at her bedside. She was into novels and finally got me to read one, "The Red Tent." (I had already written my own Midrash on Dinah.)
Lisa appreciated me driving her to Trader Joe’s when she could no longer drive, so she could get some favorite foods for herself. She didn't want to ask her family for that extra stop. I'd show Lisa the good soups. Luckily the store was not too big for me to lose her. I drove us from the Valley to LA to enjoy gardens, and museums and theaters and concerts and movies and festivals. She would laugh at how I would drive us with chutzpah to get into special parking spots, as close as could be. We had miracles.
Lisa loved the lotuses in Echo Park during their festival. I arranged a small van tour for her of the Echo Park area, because of her difficulty up and down the hills. She always said that she had the best time when I took her for an adventure by car. She loved eating small jujubee fruits that I bought (because they were different) at a farmer’s market on the way back from her Big Bear home the only time I went. She couldn’t drive there and wanted to go after 911, so we went and I drove the mountain roads with an American flag flying from my car. Lisa said years later that the flower bulbs I gave her were flowering also all over the Big Bear property and that made me feel good. Oy, did we have an experience there with a bat flying over me in the house. She laughed at me as I screamed and grabbed a broom. Bat was smarter than both of us.
My friend Lisa was a very grateful woman. She thanked the Holy One in her prayers, graciously and in awe, for receiving all the goodness that G*d offered. My understanding is that G*d created us humans to receive G*d's Divine goodness. Amayn. Lisa fulfilled her life purpose.
Lisa, until several years ago, went to shul every Erev Shabbat. On her family's special occasions (yahrzeits, aufrufs), I would meet her there. Lisa was grateful for how her family treated her, taking loving care of her. They all had their special times with her scheduled in the week, and Lisa would tell me later what she could remember about the outings. Lisa was a master of covering up her lack of memory. I would ask, "What did you eat?" and Lisa would answer, a platter of food. "Where did you eat?", I asked. The regular place or down the street.
Personally, I felt very badly that the family never called me to let me know about moves, changes, or hospitalizations. I know that they had other priorities, but I was Lisa's very good friend for a very long time and requested from each that they tell me. At least they called me today to tell me of Lisa’s death. I already knew because early today I called the ‘home’ to see about visiting and Lisa had died last night, surrendering her soul to the Compassionate One. May Lisa rest in peace and continue to enjoy her "machaiyahs" from the other side. I expect that Lisa will visit me.
Practically every day for years, I brought to Lisa a gift in one form or another, flowers or fruit from my trees, tzhotskahs from my travels, autographed books from authors I had met, or loved, and Lisa was always appreciative. Lisa loved little things in life. She loved the early morning mist in the pool, and the spider’s new woven web seen in the morning's light (before we walked into it).
I received Lisa’s love. When I need to converse with her soul, I can hold her hand in my hand, as my rebbes teach us to do. It is only now, in looking for something tangible to hold in my hand, that I realize that Lisa never gave me a physical present in my life to take home aside from the best home grown fruit; we shared the gifts of each other’s neshamahs / souls. I had the gift of having Lisa being present as my friend, and surely the great gift of swimming with Lisa in her pool where we shared a million stories. I encouraged Lisa to write down her stories. Finally she did not know what she did with her notebook, nor how to open the computer. I had the gift of a woman who thought of me as a loving daughter. Lisa knew the names of all my friends and would ask about them. Below in this Blog, you can read the posted pool stories.
Lisa could eat her weight in my figs, she told me. Sometimes, twice a day I would bring Lisa plates of my hand-picked fabulous figs. Except for the citrus, sadly my other trees died: apricote, peaches, nectarine, plum--the best ever. When my dear neighbor Edith gave me fruit from her trees and garden, like the best hachiyah persimmons, or vine-ripened tomatoes, I would share those too with Lisa, as Edith's gift. For Lisa to enjoy, I would pick her peaches and oranges which she could not reach, and she would send a few delicious fruits home with me. She gave to the neighbor across the street also, who for years would bring in her garbage pails. Other favorite foods when I took her out for dinner included Chinese black Shitake mushrooms and also berries. Lisa enjoyed Mexican and Japanese food, too. I used to take a few pastries (rugelach) wrapped in a napkin or plate, back to Lisa after my shul's Shabbat oneg and she'd share them with her aide. I always brought goodies for them both, little treats. Lisa had lots of live-in aides.
Lisa told me that she kept the little Jewish books by her bed that I had given to her. Lisa loved all the flowers and plants that I planted in her garden, purple agapanthus (Lily of the Nile), red succulent lagharitos / lizard, purple bearded irises, red flowery Mandevillea vines and Horsetail and Boston Fern, in front and back giving her awesome colors and they grew so tall. With her long-time gardener, Kay, Lisa planted lots of roses and when she was away on holiday, I would go and prune them so they didn't turn to rose hips. When Lisa cut roses of every color to bring into her home, with gloved hands, she carried them in a handled basket. I loved the look so got myself a basket.
Before I could accept “dementia” I would get upset with Lisa that she claimed the summer rose’s brand new ‘red’ leaves were burnt from the rare January frost (a year and a half earlier). How do I know they weren’t from the frost?, she would argue each time, and I would explain with authority that I was taking horticulture at CSUN (and I was).
Lisa loved my cut flowers that I’d bring over in vases. Every time I received a floral bouquet, I would quickly take out some unusual tropical flowers and share them with Lisa. It gave me pleasure. Lisa loved her vase collection; many purchased at the Hadassah silent auctions for two dollars.
Lisa kept plants (along with her fish) on her bay window sill and kitchen sink counter and they were always so healthy. Sometimes, because I was taller, I would bring them down or forward for her to water. There was the December flowering cactus that Joe's former care giver had given to her, and the flowers that the beloved Japanese gardener had given to her on Mother’s day. (I will call Kay about Lisa's death.) Lisa appreciated them all and was so very touched when she received these gifts, given out of love for her.
Lisa would let me bring down to her, even after Joe died, my lulav and esrog, and have her wave them for Sukkot. I would blow the shofar for Lisa. She had eaten in my Sukkah. For the High Holidays each year, we had taken turns reserving together our round challahs at the Jewish bakery and split the time waiting on the long pick up lines. Sometimes Lisa would take home from shul, doubles of Jewish press and sometimes I did the same, so we shared. Before being trashed, I inherited her Reform magazines, but not her People mags. Lisa, unlike other friends and family, never let me open an LA Times newspaper section, unless she had first read it.
Lisa, of blessed memory, stopped eating traif sea and land animals years ago when she learned about Kashrut while we were together at a retreat, and she was "Reform." Lisa said that her mother said that "kosher meant clean." When I would visit Lisa at the senior facility last year, I would have Lisa remind the dining staff that she did not eat certain foods that they were serving to her. I would ask the dining hall about substitutions.
I was with Lisa on her 90th birthday two weeks ago. I went over with bright yellow daffodils, a personal card and bubbles which I thought would be fun, reminding us of iridescent hummingbirds. Lisa’s hands were now unable to freely move and her fingers were doing strange things, so I didn’t give the bubbles to her. She always had the softest hands but they began to bruise easily. On her birthday Lisa did not look well and could not properly converse, nor make sense, and had “gone downhill”. She had been in and out of hospitals for falls. Lisa's new staff learned from me what a wonderful friend she had been and what Lisa was like before she arrived there, unlike her changed current condition. They were gentle with her and attentive and happy to see me visit.
If I went quickly over to Lisa's own house when she was suddenly not well, I asked for some action and proper care like letting the family know and making sure that Lisa was drinking fluids, and sitting quietly even if she thought she was "fine". I would wipe her down with cool cloths while the aide was nearby or not. When Lisa was not well, I wanted to be the one to help her because I loved her.
When I saw Lisa walking by my house with her aide, I would bring out a bottle of water for her to carry with her, since many times the aide forgot the water which Lisa needed. I would then join them on their walk and watched carefully for any sidewalk cracks. Lisa regained strength after falls and could walk up and down the hill which she did a few times a day. (Walking, Lisa was not in mitzrayim.)
Sometimes Lisa carried the house land-line phone with her on her walks, so I would go and get my cell phone and begged the aide to please carry one. Why? Lisa wanted to know. Back at the house, I would guide Lisa to listen to phone answering machine messages which she no longer listened to. The last message was from the pharmacist a couple days earlier. (I told the family so her meds could be picked up.) For the last couple years at home, many times the phone rang busy. I would let the family know that one of the phones was not hanging up properly (get a new phone) and I would show the problem to Lisa and the aides. I would go down the hill and have Lisa check the phones so she could use it and family could call in. Lisa assured me that there was nothing wrong with her phone, "It is working." Yes, because we fixed it.
I used to wrap presents that Lisa had for her family, because she felt she could not wrap neatly. She had learned as a child in school (with nuns) that unlike her beloved mother, z’l, she was not very dextrous and the nuns made fun of her because her needlework always looked grey for handling it too much in the creation process. Although her mother had done beautiful handiwork, Lisa's tries were muddled. That scripting stayed with Lisa. I encouraged Lisa to see herself differently and in a new light. In her eighties, Lisa used her fingers to learn how to play piano with her granddaughter teaching her. She wouldn't let anyone listen.
Lisa was strong as a horse, and with the most solid leg muscles ever from swimming, which she was proud of. But she suffered cramps on the pool. I helped her work them out and reminded her to drink quinine water. (See earlier post.)
We swam all the summer time in her pool. Sometimes, rarely, we would go in at night and enjoy the darkness of the water and garden. A romantic night time swim, and Lisa recalled those earlier night swims with Joe. Early we would swim and enjoy the morning mist over the pool. The last summer at home, Lisa would get a little angry if I could not come over when she could swim, even though she had her aide. I wasn't allowed to come when I could make it. (Knowing that Lisa's brother expressed anger in his Alzheimers, I was concerned about Lisa.) Lisa got angry with me if I first greeted the aide before her.
Lisa had me teach one caregiver (Cherry) how to swim, and she learned so that she could go into the water with Lisa. I was not happy when I would come over to swim, and found Lisa alone in the pool already and the caregiver was in the garage, no where visible. Sometimes aides would disappear into the house for over half an hour and if I called that to Lisa’s attention she would get upset but she would forget it the next minute. Caregivers took advantage of the situation when I was present.
At the crest of the hill, we would stop on our walks and gaze in amazement down at the whole valley, surrounded by mountains. As much as I thought I was observant of nature, and with a photographer's eyes, Lisa was even more so. Lisa noticed every little leaf and bud and bird. Every nuance of G*d's creations. (I noticed the cracks in the sidewalk.) We used to see Robins and lots of doves. Insects, specifically worms, were a problem. I would try to hide any worms before Lisa would see them. I would steer her away so she did not get scared of the littlest worm. In the pool I told her that the slim brown things were sticks.
Lisa once got upset with a caregiver thinking she was ‘stupidly’ sweeping the porch with her shoe on her foot as the broom. I had pointed out worms so Lisa would not see them, and the caregiver would push them away with her foot. Lisa would say, “no sechel.”
I became another set of eyes and mind for Lisa, and would make sure the side doors were locked, and the filling water for the pool was turned off, and that enough water was added to the pool so that the motor did not burn out, and that the pool cleaners and motor were turned on and working and not broken and that the aides shut off the watering hoses. Lisa was no longer cognizant of these issues. I made sure that the neighbor’s gardeners removed all the tree branches they were definitely leaving dropped in Lisa’s garden and taking advantage of her. I would bring in her garbage pails from the street and put them away for her. (Lisa would surprise Hispanic help by listening in on their conversations on her property, and then respond in her fluent Espanol.)
It became emotionally difficult for me to visit in the last year while Lisa was at the large commercial facility, because she was losing her recognition of me due to her dementia, and she was barely the woman I knew, and she needed to sleep. It was hard for me to see who were her dining partners; people who could not converse with her in any language. But Lisa could always tell me about the photos of beloved family and ancestors on her wall in her small single room facility new home.
I came to a conclusion from the beginning since Lisa's move from her home, that the family didn’t want me visiting because I was a reminder of Lisa's home. (It was hard when I witnessed Lisa in the new place, telling her family a year ago that she wanted "to go home.") I continued to bring the Jewish Journal to Lisa. Everything else I gave to Lisa would disappear. The family never called me during the twelve months until today, even though I had asked them to.
I hold my memories of Lisa, my friend, in my heart, and these will give me great comfort and joy as I remember our deep and joyous journeys together. They are the “gateways to the treasures that belong to this lifetime alone.”
Lisa, my friend, enjoy the gateway to Heaven where you are now journeying. Say “hi” to my husband, z'l. You can tell him that you took good care of me, just as he asked of you. I love you.
I've rambled on with so many heartfelt memories (and tears), which is what I have left of my friendship with Lisa. In Lisa's memory, I will plant a garden of purple bearded irises at my local Chabad (as I have done in other shuls, hospital and homes in memory of loved ones).
Thank you for reading these stories which barely touch the surface of our friendship and chesed / loving kindness for each other.