Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Tale of Uncle Charlie

"Did I tell you about how we had to keep Uncle Charlie warm after he died?"

The four of us, Lisa and her husband and me and my husband, were sitting outside Starbucks one recent, warm Saturday evening after a dinner out. As we settled back into our seats, sipping our iced coffee drinks, Lisa told us the story of her uncle's death a few months before.

Uncle Charlie had been ill for years with one thing or another but always managed to fight off death. Now he was in the ICU, hooked up to monitors, IVs, and a breathing tube, and the end was near.

The family gathered--children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews. Only his grandson was missing when Uncle Charlie was disconnected from all of the medical miracles that had been keeping him alive. Long into the night the family sat vigil as Uncle Charlie's vital signs continued steady. Finally they decided to go home, get a few hours of rest, and return in the morning.

The next day, after a couple hours of sleep, one by one, the family returned to the hospital to gather again at Uncle Charlie's bedside. His grandson still had not arrived but was on his way when Uncle Charlie's breathing changed and his vital signs showed that the end was imminent. Lisa's cousin called her son--he was still about 20 minutes away. Uncle Charlie couldn't wait.

A nurse was called, and after checking Uncle Charlie and assuring herself that he had indeed passed away, she turned off the monitors and left the family to say their final goodbyes.

As the minutes passed, Lisa was struck by the thought that Uncle Charlie's grandson would arrive, kiss his grandfather for the last time, and find him cold and dead. Suddenly, she knew she couldn't let that happen. Wildly, Lisa looked around the room and spotted some cloth gloves lying on a table--she had a plan! She turned to the boy's mother and said, "We have to keep Uncle Charlie warm. If we put the gloves on and keep rubbing his face, the friction will keep his skin warm."

So rub they did. And rub, and rub, and rub. Picture, if you will, two crazed middle aged women, wearing gloves, furiously rubbing the face of a dead man. Got that in your mind? Because that's precisely what any of the ICU nurses would have seen had they been watching the closed circuit monitors. And were any of the nurses watching or had they turned those monitors off too? Well, we'll never know, but after several minutes of furiously rubbing Uncle Charlie, Lisa looked up and realized the monitors were there.

Uncle Charlie's grandson arrived a few minutes later and, as Lisa anticipated, walked up to his grandfather and kissed him on the cheek. "How long ago did he die?", the boy asked. "He still feels warm!"

Lisa's own father passed away several years ago. As she tells it, she's sure he was sitting up beside Uncle Charlie in Heaven (or whatever place is beyond death) watching the goings on. She can almost hear her dad exclaim, "What in the Hell are those two crazy girls doing NOW?!"


Sharon said...

Girlfriend you have one crazy ass family!!!!!!!!! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!

Carol said...

Oh my goodness...this was a wonderful way to start my morning...I am falling off the chair!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree, some crazy family here.

Marcie said...

That is a really cute and sweet story! Not everyone would have thought of that. In fact, I can think of no one who would have thought of that! You really need to write a book, Kim!

Vicky said...

ROFLOL. I mean, really ROFLOL!

Pam said...

Oh my own dear momma passed just a couple of months son and my niece had a couple of "Weekend at Bernie's" moments following her death as well. At the time it was what needed to be done, now it is something to laugh about, my father was no doubt rolling his eyes and shaking his head as he watched all of the doings following her passing.