It was a good sendoff.
It started a couple of months ago, when Irene’s brother Joey went to the doctor and he announced that Joey needed his gall bladder out. The surgery was scheduled and the surgeon found that Joey had terminal cancer throughout his body.
Irene’s brother Michael had been supervising Joey for the last ten years, taking over the job when Irene’s father died. Joey and his live-in girlfriend of sixteen years were not good about paying bills or keeping up the house. And Joey was epileptic.
They both had jobs and Joey retired with a pension a few years ago, although his later years were spent in his easy chair in front of the TV, smoking his pipe for most of the hours of the day.
For years the two of them had eaten mostly fast food with poor nutrition. This is rumor on my part, but Michael and others who knew them affirmed this. I don’t know a lot about causes of things, but WebMD and othe medical sites confirmed that poor nutrition leads to cirrhosis of the liver, and that leads to cancer, which is basically where the cancer started.
If nothing else, Joey’s legacy to me will be for me to carefully watch my diet.
Irene and I generally take a trip to Long Island from Myrtle Beach twice a year, on Father’s Day weekend and Veterans Day weekend. It’s a 16-hour drive, but we are up for that long on an average day and we drive relaxed.
We leave by 6am, stop every two hours to stretch our legs, and maybe for gas, bio-breaks, breakfast and dinner and arrive by about 10pm. The relaxed part comes from avoiding the heavy traffic, encountered anytime of the day or night around Washington and Baltimore.
We swing out just below Washington instead, head toward Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then toward Staten Island and Long Island beyond. The mileage goes up by about another 100, but it is speed limit all the way. Besides, the tolls both ways are $18.75 round trip through Pennsylvania, and $57 round trip taking the Washington route.
When we visited on Veterans Day weekend, we went to see Joey. He had grown a beard and was pretty jovial. He was even making jokes about his funeral, and said he had seen his parents in a dream. He accepted his future.
We had a pleasant visit, and I mentioned to Irene that this was probably the last time we would see him alive. Michael said he hoped he would last until Christmas.
Well, that didn’t happen. On Tuesday, December 14, Michael called to say that Joey had peaceably passed away at 11:40am. He intended to have a viewing for only one day, Thursday, and bury him on Friday.
Irene and I left 6am the next morning to drive to Long Island, just about a month after our last trip. We generally travel up on Veterans Day because it is before snow season starts. This time I stood a snow shovel in the back seat. Irene didn’t think we needed the shovel, but changed her tune when it started to snow in Pennsylvania.
However, we arrived snowless and safely at Michael and Joann’s house, pretty much on schedule.
The next day was the viewing, pretty much all day, even though the times were 2-5 and 7-9. I was pleasantly surprised that so many people came to the viewing, but Joey and Dorothy are members of the local Republican club, and many came. I was also pleasantly surprised that my three children showed up, even though they hardly knew Joey.
The only incident encountered was that Joey’s first wife showed up. They have been divorced for thirty years. Joey was incensed when she showed up for his Dad’s funeral, and left specific instructions that she was to be barred from his.
That unpleasant duty fell to Michael, who handled it with dignity, even when she left shouting “F” words all the way.
The day went well with a small service provided by Joey’s church. Joey looked positively dignified with his beard, a lot like a college professor.
The next day we were at the funeral home early. The first stop was at the church for a service of farewell. Irene and Michael spread the shroud over the casket. I joked that they wanted Irene because they knew she wouldn’t allow any wrinkles.
After the service, it was off to the cemetery where he would be buried. Joey was to laid to rest with his parents. We had been experiencing a wicked cold spell, and we all stood at the grave site shivering, no matter how warmly we had dressed. It was one of the few times I wore a hat.
The deacon explained that due to the cold he would not be overly chatty, and thankfully he was not. But even for the twenty minutes we stood there, we froze in the outside air.
The bottom line is that Joey’s family and friends gave him a good sendoff. Although there was sadness in the air, we knew it was coming, and all of us, including Joey were prepared.
Saturday, the day after the funeral, we were on our way back to Myrtle Beach.
All the credit for supervising Joey’s later life and last days, and his funeral arrangements goes to Michael; he is a hero. And now comes more challenges; settling Joey’s affairs.
Joey designated Claudine, Michael’s daughter as executor of his estate, which was pretty much gone due to medical bills and nursing home care over his medical insurance. He didn’t want Michael as executor because he said he was “too old”. But Claudine will work with her father.
Joey owned his house outright. It is in a modest neighborhood but has not been kept up. It is no doubt that the creditors will all put liens on the house for monies owed. When all liens are settled, we all doubt there will be anything left. The ownership of the house is in his estate, but I don’t believe the creditors can force a sale.
Without the house, Dorothy has no place to live. I suggested to Michael to propose that she pay the taxes and utilities as rent, and live there until something changes.
Michael worries about the bills, although he has no responsibility for them. The surgical assistant for Joey’s gall bladder operation charged $8700 for his presence in the operating room. Medicare sent him $1200.
When Joey was in the nursing home, Michael noticed his chart was missing. He found one of the doctors with a pile of charts at the nursing station. He was going through the diagnosis and adding a page at the back with services he allegedly performed on the patient. Michael’s inquiries found out that that doctor had never even seen most of the patients whose charts he was updating.
We have now let Joey go. He lived his life in his way and will live on in our memories. We feel he is in a better place, with his parents. Michael will stay on the case until the last “i” is dotted and be forever our hero.