Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer, Interrupted

We had been planning our trip to Saint Paul, Minnesota for months. Though we had briefly stopped in Minneapolis when we returned from a road trip to the Dakotas, we had never been to Saint Paul. And even better than that, this trip we were going to visit our absolutely amazing niece Amy and her husband Shawn. We were excited! We would stop first in Madison, Wisconsin (I'd never been there as well) and then on to Saint Paul for a long weekend. At our house we have a large map of the U.S. on the wall with black pins in all of the places we have been together. To deserve a pin on the map we decided we had to have actually done something in that city, like spend the night, so Max found a B&B in a close suburb where we spent Thursday night. I had been to Wisconsin many times, but Max hadn't, and Madison is a great city to visit. On Friday morning we only had a 4 hour drive to Saint Paul.

Life didn't work out the way we'd planned.

Don's oldest brother, Bill who lives in Tulsa, was scheduled for surgery this summer- nothing spectacular- though with Bill even "routine" can end up rather spectacular. The week prior to our visit Amy (Bill is Amy's father) and Shawn had gone to Tulsa "hold" Bill's hand- though I'm not sure any of us can imagine "holding" Bill's hand. He is one tough guy. They would be back to Saint Paul in plenty of time for our visit- and we all planned to celebrate Bill's recovery. We knew this wasn't going to be an easy surgery, but Bill done pretty well through two previous and much more serious surgeries so this one would hopefully have the same outcome.

But it didn't work out that way. Though the surgery went well- and we were all celebrating the good news- suddenly things weren't going so well after all. Didn't seem like such a big deal at first- a temp and some difficulty with his blood pressure. But it just kept getting worse and worse.

We were going to cancel the trip. Amy was spending every night in the ICU...And didn't know when she would return to Saint Paul. But then Bill got better, and we again sighed a big sigh of relief and began packing. Shawn and Amy drove home to Saint Paul, and we headed out from Cincy to Saint Paul via Madison.

The bad news started coming again on Friday morning. Bill's blood pressure was unstable again- and they were having more difficulty than usual stabalizing it. We drove into Saint Paul and spent lots of time hugging and hugging and hugging -and waiting and waiting and waiting for more news from Tulsa.

We decided to head out for some lunch. We headed for a local "burger joint" called the "NOOK" for a famous Saint Paul burger.

No, I didn't eat the whole thing. I split this one with Amy and we both were able conquer this double decker.

After lunch we decided to head to St. Pauls Cathedral. Each of us wishing to spend some time in prayer- and to light candles for Bill. The Cathedral of Saint Paul is a truly spectactular building. The dome is absolutely enormous and the stained glass and the art work make this building one to see if you are in Saint Paul.
As Amy and I left the cathedral we shared our prayers- and they had been the same. We had both prayed that God would do the very best for Bill, not what we might selfishly want- but rather would do what was the very best for Bill. My cell phone rang before we stepped outside. It was Kelly, our niece and Amy's sister. Through her sobs she told us that Bill was not responding to the medication. They couldn't stabalize his blood pressure. There was nothing that could be done to reverse the down hill race. We held our breathe in between phone calls from Tulsa until the news came that the end had arrived. Bill had always been a stoic, tough and determined man. He had lots of physical problems that resulted in almost constant pain. He never really complained, but it was obvious the pain was there. After this surgery the problems with blood pressure, some acute organ failure, and what ever was causing the fever eventually could not be overcome. When the decision had been made to stop giving him the vasopressors that were keeping his blood pressure up, he passed away within 15 minutes. His pain was finally gone.

Now the next two days passed in the cloudy space of "this probably really isn't happening, and I'm going to wake up soon and get on with my life". I mostly sat on the porch and read. There really isn't much a sister-in-law can do. I began reading Losing Mum and Pup by Christopher Buckley a very poignant memoir about the loss of a mother and father within just months of each other. It's not easy to plan a funeral that isn't expected. I know people do it all the time, but this time we were involved. Someone needed to quickly write an obituary (I got that job), timing for the visitation, the entombment, the memorial service and a hundred other things had to happen. One thing about Ellen is that she can organized and execute plans. So we spent the next two days in Saint Paul and provided whatever was asked of us before our drive south to Tulsa.
Occasionally I'd be joined by Amy and Shawn and Don..
But I have to tell you. They had a lot, lot, lot, lot to do. They were busy. The phone rang constantly on first one cell phone and then another as they assisted with arrangements for Bill- arrangements that had not been given even a cursory thought just two weeks prior.

We decided that for dinner we'd take Bill with us. Bill had taken both Don and me- and then later Amy and Shawn- on our separate visits to see him and Ellen in NJ/NYC for a really, really, really great steak at Ruth's Chris Steak House. Steak was Bill's absolute favorite and he loved eating at this steak house.. We headed for the best steak house in St. Paul with the plan to celebrate Bill life by doing what he liked to do best.

Shawn even had Bill's signature drink, Beefeater Gin on the Rocks- with Pickled Okra garnish instead of an olive (we brought our own pickled okra).
Monday we all loaded in our car and headed the 700 miles south to Tulsa.

We gathered for the first time as a family- now lost without the head of the Lucas Clan. We went of course to Bill's favorite hang out for breakfast- Tally's located at 11th and Yale.

We all had the cinnamon roll...or at least as much of one that we could eat. Tally's has great breakfasts and the owner had become a real friend of Bill's. We always went to Tally's when we visited Bill in Tulsa.

We then lived the surreal events of the next two days. If you'd like you can read Bill's life here as it was presented in the local newspaper, the Tulsa World.

Then on Wednesday morning we traveled together to the Mausoleum to say goodbye to the husband, the father, the brother, the friend.

Shelby, Bill's oldest granddaughter sang at the mausoleum.

I believe that I have never been so moved as I was with the haunting sound of the bugler that played for Bill at the Mausoleum. You'll want to take the time to listen to this. And this as well...(both have been uploaded to The bugler actually played a trumpet, but he didn't use the valves so it was essentially played like a bugle. And he was amazing. We were all gathered in a small room, kind of a chapel, and just behind us and to the side was where he played a number of appropriate pieces. The sound of the horn reverberated against the marble walls of the mausoleum and Max is correct in saying that the sound was haunting.

A grief made visible...

There is a hole that will remain in the hearts of all who loved Bill, a husband, a father, a brother, a grandfather, a friend...
We have always been the "four Lucas boys". Now the eldest, one I looked up to so many times in my life as a role model and a friend, is gone. But we will remember him for who he was and what he did in his life- both the good and the bad. There are lots of lessons from Bill that will stay with us as we continue on as the "four Lucas boys".


Anonymous said...

Maxanna and sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing a part of "Bill" with all of us. You are all so fortunate that you have each other to lean on and memories to retell!. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.



Sandy said...

I think the epicurean tributes were a perfect idea. So sorry about your loss.

smathis75 said...

Thank you for sharing with us. I wish Matthew and I could have been there to help in some way. Lots of love and hugs from Philly.

Lucas said...

A lovely tribute, thank you. And a really good reason for a "re-do". Can't wait to host you again in Saint Paul so we can do it up RIGHT. So glad you both were here. It helped having Dad's baby brother and his wife here. It really did.

Elaine said...

to Max and Don. When I had a few quiet moments today and read your words, and listened to the bugle, I really lost it. I am glad I was not there in person, and glad that I could share from afar. Thank you for letting me be a part of of it. I love Bill, I always have and I always will. And I always will love his family and consider myself a integral part of it. It was weird not knowing where to be, or not to be and what if any role I was to have but you all, as always, made me feel welcome and I am grateful. i love you all. E

Brandy said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.