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CHECKED OUT - The Thin Edge of Dignity

Blank mourning frame for sympathy card


Two residents died this week. Hey! Wait! That’s exactly how I began a blog in January.

Well. What do I expect?

Most residents living in my ALF are octogenarians and nonagenarian’s, although there are a smattering of “young’uns” in their seventies, and a couple of folks in their sixties. But we have enough “old’uns” to keep the fresh new journalists-to-be of our local newspaper skillful in writing obituaries.


“Passing away” is a constant in a living community of those who – so far - are surviving, as Shakespeare wrote, the slings and arrows of out outrageous fortune . . . . the flesh is heir to.


What’s different now is the way our community finds out about their checking out.


It used to be, the Administrator would use the noon hour, when everyone was gathered in the Dining Room eating lunch, to interrupt the munching to make an announcement about the passing, ask for prayers and thoughts – just like the Prez and NRA-backed politicians responding to a mass shooting . After the announcement, the munching continued, with whispered questioning of table mates about who that person was.


Now, the process is singular, quieter, and, I think, more dignified. It’s also a practical necessity: the current Administrator, being sweet and gentle toward the residents, has a much weaker voice than the previous Administrator. She can’t bellow.

To be notified of a passing, you have to walk to the end of the Dining Room where the former resident’s image rests. There you’ll see a 2 x 3 color picture of the deceased resident’s face on a light blue background.  The photo is adhered to a white matte bordered with colorful leaves and tree branches in a simple 8 x 10  black frame, with a thin gold gilt edge.  A plate with the person’s name and dates is placed above the frame, which rests against the spindled music stand of the light maple brown spinet piano.

Standing there reading and seeing reminds me of standing in front of the Vietnam[ War Memorial reading the names. It's a nice way to mourn and have “thoughts and prayers” for those who have checked out.

Dick Weinman is an AARP volunteer and our assisted living guru who lives in an ALF in Corvallis. He's the creator of the this blog series, The Thin Edge of Dignity.

[Istock photo: giuseppepapa]


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