Tuesday, November 5, 2019

IWSG: Thankful To A Gracious Donor For A Healthy Kidney

                                                      



It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support Group Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.



                                                       
My faithful support team (husband center between boys; brother and trusted adviser on the right)

                        Thankful To A Gracious Donor For A Healthy Kidney


The life changing call came late in August while I was undergoing dialysis treatment. I usually don't answer my phone at dialysis, but I noticed the area code for Madison, Wisconsin, and had a feeling it was important. I tried very hard to keep my hand from shaking, as I tightly gripped the phone.

The woman introduced herself as a transplant coordinator from the University of Wisconsin Hospital. She began by asking me if I ever had a blood transfusion and I answered no.

She explained that I was a match with an anonymous living  donor through a paired kidney exchange program. Though my blood type is B, I qualified because I was A-2 blood sub-type compatible. I was also on the waiting list for three years at a prominent Chicago hospital which never even mentioned this option.

The transplant coordinator added that another patient was ahead of me on the list, but this person had too many antibodies that would likely reject this donor's kidney. I was next on the list and my numbers seemed to match well with the donor. She asked if I'd be interested in coming in for an evaluation in September and if all went well, I'd have the surgery on October 9th.

I was in complete shock, as I couldn't believe my good fortune. Surely someone younger than I deserved the kidney more.  The transplant coordinator tried to put my guilty feelings to rest by simply stating that I was next on the list.

I thanked her several times and tried to fight back the tears. In order to protect the donor's privacy, the transplant coordinator couldn't answer any of my questions other than that he or she  lives somewhere in the United States and the kidney would likely be shipped to the hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. She told me that I could send the donor a thank-you note through the hospital, but it would be up to the donor to contact me. 

After we said goodbye, I just sat in my dialysis chair and continued weeping quietly. I was astounded that after almost two years on dialysis, an exceptionally generous and selfless  humanitarian was willing to donate his or her kidney to save my life. 

Shortly after hearing the news, my brother and husband came to visit me at dialysis and we all were over the moon.

That night we called the boys, and I couldn't stop thanking my older son who convinced me to get on the transplant list at the University of Wisconsin/Madison. If I hadn't taken his advice, I'd probably be years away from a transplant in Chicago, and it was highly unlikely that I'd receive a kidney from a living donor.

The average wait for a kidney transplant in Chicago from a deceased donor is between five and seven years and the outcomes are generally not as good. I asked the boys to hold off on sharing the news with anyone else, as I was being cautiously optimistic and didn't want to jinx the opportunity to receive a healthy kidney.

Four donors and four recipients were involved in this paired kidney exchange. We were familiar with the concept, as about two years ago, my husband graciously offered to be part of a paired kidney exchange at a Chicago hospital.Because he wasn't a match for me, his hope was by donating a kidney to someone else, he would move me up the long transplant waiting list. But after a full day of extensive testing, the transplant doctor deemed him too old to donate a kidney. 

The next step was to go to Madison for a pre-surgical evaluation on September 16, the day after my mom's dedication. I couldn't help feeling that Mom was my guardian angel, as she always told me, "You will get a kidney."

At the evaluation, the transplant team told my husband and me that even though my numbers were excellent and I was a good match, there was always a chance that someone in this paired donor exchange could have a change of heart, or get sick which would postpone the surgery. But we tried our best to remain positive.

We decided to go to Madison the afternoon before the October 9th surgery which was the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest Jewish holiday of the year where people atone for their sins with prayer and fasting. This was also a good sign, as Yom Kippur follows Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) which symbolized a fresh start with a healthy new kidney.

I was thrilled to have a great support team accompany me to Madison, as my brother drove up with our boys. My brother also has Polycystic Kidney Disease, (PKD), and underwent a kidney transplant 14 years ago. I think the worst part of any surgery is the fear of the unknown, and thanks to him, I had a better understanding of what to expect, and how to proceed moving forward.

My brother also went to the University of Wisconsin/Madison, so he served as a tour guide. I asked my support team not to hang around the hospital during my surgery, as there's nothing worse than waiting around the hospital on a beautiful day. At first, my husband didn't want to leave, but I insisted and my brother helped convince him that it was the right thing to do. Somehow they still managed to observe the holiday, and didn't eat until after sundown. I also fasted that day.

Fortunately, the surgery was a success, and my new kidney started working right away. While I was waiting in recovery, one of the doctors asked if I wanted a shot in the stomach for pain. I happily accepted and I only needed Tylenol for the first two nights of my four and a half day hospital stay.

The night after the surgery, I was very uncomfortable and couldn't sleep. Finally, I asked the nurse if she'd mind going on a walk with me. We went on our first walk at 2 a.m. and followed up with a second walk at 4 a.m. The walking helped relieve some of my discomfort and it felt good to be productive. I will always be grateful to the caring and compassionate staff.

The hospital held classes each day for the transplant patients. My devoted husband was kind enough to attend each class with me. Classes covered nutrition, medications, how to clean your incision, and follow-up care. There were about six to eight patients in the class, but I was the only one fortunate enough to receive a kidney from a living donor.

It really cheered me up having all my boys including my brother with me at the hospital.  I'm so lucky to have such a supportive and loving family who continue to cheer me on every day. My younger son even taught me some gentle stretching exercises, as the binder I wear to protect my incision causes pressure on my back.

My surgery was on a Wednesday and my talented surgeon discharged me early Sunday evening. He asked me to stay at the hotel and come in as an outpatient for labs and follow-up testing on Monday and Tuesday.

One of the doctors told me what a good patient I was, as my numbers were good and I was getting stronger every day. I really think all the walking helped immensely in my recovery. My husband and I knew every inch of the 6th floor in the hospital, and he still continues to walk with me quite a bit.

He's also helped me organize my medications, and takes copious notes of my weight, temperature and blood pressure every day. When I told my husband how lucky I was to have him, he said he was the lucky one. He joked, "Who else can say my wife has three kidneys?"

Last week we went back to Madison to have my staples removed, and in three weeks we'll return to have my stent taken out. We also walk to the lab twice weekly at my primary care doctor's office, which is conveniently located one block away.

Though it's about a two and a half hour drive to Madison, I couldn't be happier with the sterling staff and quality care that I've received.

I still can't believe that I no longer have to go to dialysis three times a week. I promised the wonderful dialysis nurses, techs and some of the patients that I've grown close to, that I'd come back to visit. But the doctors cautioned me to wait, as my immune system has been compromised and I'm more susceptible to getting sick. I look forward to seeing everyone in the near future, and in the meantime, my incredible brother has been making rounds for me.

I still haven't heard from the gracious anonymous donor who gave me a new lease on life. I will always be grateful to him or her, and will try reaching out again soon. A few people wished me happy birthday on Facebook after they heard about my kidney transplant. Now October 9th is officially my second birthday, as the gift of a new kidney has forever changed my life.




Tuesday, September 3, 2019

IWSG: Hair Hysteria

                                                        



It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support Group Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

                                                      Hair Hysteria

                                                     
Surrounded by my favorite boys; 8/19


My mom's entire life revolved around her hair. From a young age, she fought by any means necessary to keep her hair from getting wet. Mom was the only one in her high school gym class who was able to talk her way out of taking four years of swimming.

Beginning in her 20s, Mom had weekly beauty shop appointments. She would patiently watch her beautician dry and style her hair. Then she would primp in front of the mirror with a pick until her hair was teased and coiffed to perfection, adding enough hairspray to choke an elephant. Fortunately, her saintly beautician didn't take it personally.

Is hair obsession hereditary? Though I suffered through four years of swimming in high school, I admit to being traumatized by bad hair days. Then fate stepped in.

The night before a haircut appointment last April, I received a text from my beautician informing me that she had a bad case of the flu and wasn't sure when she'd feel well enough to reschedule.

I hate change which is evidenced by the fact that I've had slight variations on the shag hairdo since I turned double digits. 

As much as I adore my beautician of over 20 years, I felt that maybe this would be a good opportunity to finally try something new.

Not only was I able to get into another highly recommended stylist two days later, but she was just steps away from our apartment building.

Our first meeting prompted her to ask, "Why do you have a Carol Brady hairdo?"

Carol Brady was the mom played by Florence Henderson on the popular sitcom The Brady Bunch. Shag hairstyles were all the rage in the 70s and Mrs. Brady was quite a trendsetter. The series ran from 1969-1974.

Though almost 50 years later, this was clearly not a compliment, I was in dire need of a stylist who wasn't afraid of hurting my feelings. Boy I miss my mom!

The beautician explained that I could have a more contemporary look by simply growing out my top layers, while trimming the surrounding longer layers. She styled it straight for the first few haircuts which looked great, but I had trouble working with it. Even using a flat iron didn't help.

When I pleaded with her to bring back my shorter layers which had morphed into wings, she assured me that if I just held out a little longer, my hair would be easier to handle. I told her that she was like having an AA sponsor.

Like any good sponsor, she could relate to my frustrations, as she also has curly hair. I decided to follow her lead and stop fighting the heat and humidity by embracing my curls. I'm happier and my husband's happier, so it's a win-win. 

Now I have the best of both worlds, as my former beautician (who's also a color expert) moved into a shop just blocks away from where we live, so I still see her whenever I need highlights.

Hair obsession doesn't only effect the women in our family. Years ago, a close relative joked that he was a member of the "Balding Men's Club," after one of my sons saw him talking to another balding man, and assumed that all men experiencing hair loss knew each other.

One day after being traumatized by the worst haircut of his life, the close relative ranted to the barber in vivid details about what a terrible job he had done. 

Finally, the barber asked, "If I don't charge you for the haircut, will you promise never to come back to my barbershop again?"


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

IWSG: Don't Go in the Bathroom

                                                                        

It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support Group Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

                                                              Don't Go in the Bathroom

The staff at the dialysis center where I receive treatments three days a week is exceptionally efficient, and is always there within seconds in the event of the slightest problem. For example, even a leg cramp is immediately tended to, as patients usually do not leave their recliner seats until the treatment is complete. Not only is the staff extremely pleasant to talk to, but they're also excellent listeners. As patients, our vitals are taken several times, and we are continually monitored throughout the day. Recently, I was surprised to find a police car in the parking lot.

 As I walked in, a nurse stopped me from going to the treatment area restroom, and guided me to the ladies room in the lobby. I thought nothing of it, as this restroom is often occupied. On the way to my designated chair, I noticed a policeman stationed between the doorway leading to the dialysis unit and the treatment area restroom.

I quietly asked one of the staff what was going on and she offered to explain later. In all the commotion, my treatment was delayed a few minutes, so I texted my friend across the room for the 411. She explained that a 91-year-old patient from the morning shift suffered a heart attack in the restroom. The staff responded immediately followed by the paramedics, but they were unable  to revive him. Hours later the funeral home still hadn't arrived to pick up his body.

Now the pieces were starting to come together. The people that I hadn't recognized in the lobby, were the deceased man's son, daughter-in-law and grandson. They arrived after his treatment expecting to take him home, as they did every Saturday. I could see the son tearing up, while he spoke to the police officer. Though I never met the elderly patient or his family, I found myself tearing up too.


I turned to my friend, Mrs. C. in the seat next to me. Without saying a word, I could tell that she knew exactly what was going on. At 88. Mrs. C. is very sharp and perceptive. She is a trooper who never complains. Many of the older patients have a very difficult time adjusting to dialysis, but Mrs. C. seems to take everything in stride.

Unfortunately, Mrs. C's eyesight must not be the best, as she only sees the good in me. She actually thinks I move like a gazelle. Yes, I'm kind of a big-shot with geriatrics in walkers, though some cocky nonagenarians with canes have passed me up on occasion.

As Mrs. C. and I had front row seats across from the treatment area restroom, we both silently wondered when the funeral home was going to arrive to pick up the deceased patient. Suddenly, trying to watch anything on TV seemed pointless.

A few minutes after the funeral home arrived, one of my dear friends came to visit me. I quickly motioned for her to put on her protective gown and sit next to me. I didn't want her to get caught in the patient's final exit from dialysis.

Next, the staff smoothly put up privacy curtains between the restroom and the door leading to the lobby. Remarkably, a small woman from the funeral home single-handedly managed to wheel the body bag on a gurney out of the building.

After I filled my visiting friend in, she said, "I feel kind of sick, since I've used that bathroom before."

I told her that I felt for her, and was very sorry for what she was going through.

Then I tried to imagine how Mrs. C. and most of the other patients in the same age group were feeling. I turned to Mrs. C. and asked how she was doing, and as I expected, she looked very sad.

Fortunately, I cheered her up a little when I told her my brother was coming to visit. Mrs. C. and my brother also have a special relationship. She laughs at all of his jokes, and they could talk forever about their love of the Chicago Cubs. They also have a little flirtation going on, but that's another story.

The staff at the dialysis center remained professional throughout the entire experience. They are always appreciative when Mrs. C. and I don't complain when there's an occasional problem. But I tell them there's no reason to complain, as they always respond quickly, and bend over backwards to make sure that we're comfortable.

The following week everything was back to normal, but it took me a few days until I summoned the courage to use the restroom again.





Tuesday, June 4, 2019

IWSG: Food For Thought on Cheating Husbands

                                                         

It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support Group Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.


                         IWSG: Food For Thought on Cheating Husbands


Nah, he wouldn't...would he?
                                                     
While switching TV channels awaiting my dialysis treatment, my husband came across an episode about a suspected cheating husband with a twist on the Maury Show. She claimed he was having an affair with another woman while she was undergoing dialysis.

My husband and I had a good laugh, though this was entirely possible, as my appointments lasted about three and a half hours. When it came time for the suspected husband to take a lie detector test, some of the staff at the clinic also joined in on the fun. According to the show, he passed the test with flying colors.

Once I was all settled in, my husband left to run errands. As always, he returned to the clinic about two and a half hours later. His timing was perfect, as my doctor was making rounds. She was about to move on to another patient when she noticed my husband walking toward us.

My doctor couldn’t stop talking about how good my husband looked. He had lost about 10 pounds and she wanted to know if he lifted weights and what else he did to get in such great shape. I didn’t find it the slightest bit odd that her conversation with my husband who made the ultimate sacrifice of cutting down to three meals a day lasted longer than my exam.

On the way home, we made a quick stop at the grocery store. In the checkout line, the woman who was bagging the groceries turned to my husband and said, “Do you want paper or plastic, honey?”

Then I realized that I couldn’t leave my husband alone for a second. Terrible thoughts started racing through my head. I remembered my mom telling me how her unsuspecting friend couldn’t understand how her husband kept losing his underwear. They divorced a year later.

As soon as we got home,  I rifled through my husband’s underwear drawer and every pair was accounted for. I smiled when I realized it was too comfortably worn out to attract anyone without cataracts.

Unfortunately, my relief was short-lived when he brought up that Macy’s was having a sale on men's underwear for Father’s Day and wanted to stock up since he went down a size. Suddenly my life was turning into the Maury Show and I didn’t know what to do.

The next morning my husband was nowhere to be found. I saw our car was still in the parking lot, so I figured he went for a walk. But what if he merely walked to another floor in our apartment building? Our building is swarming with single women. Though he can barely see or hear, he still drives at night and is pretty handy around the house.

I was so distraught that I quickly fell back asleep. An hour later I awoke to the aroma of my favorite brunch - scrambled eggs with mushrooms and garlic. While Hubby was busy cooking, he explained that he just returned from an invigorating walk to the beach. He even picked up fresh bagels on his way home.

Within minutes, I decided that it was pointless to have my husband submit to a lie detector test, as no matter where he'd been, he still came home to cook for me. I know I got the better end of the deal for which I'm very grateful.

But if he does decide to get friendly with the flirtatious divorcee down the hall, I won't stand in his way. Rumor has it, our new neighbor ordered a deluxe gas grill and doesn't know the first thing about barbecuing. Did I mention that my husband is known for his legendary grilled London broil and skirt steaks? Sadly, he hung up his tongs when we moved.

Remarkably, our new neighbor's days off coincide with my treatments, and I always have an insatiable appetite after dialysis. This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

IWSG: Hubby's Selective Hearing Powers

                                                 

It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support Group Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.


                                                
                             Hubby's Selective Hearing Powers

My husband and I had to make some adjustments almost two years ago when we moved  from our two-story family home to a small apartment. But I thought our close surroundings would make it easier for us to communicate.

Though I have the uncanny ability to be able to lie in bed and hear my husband enjoying a grape in the kitchen, he often doesn't hear me even when I'm standing right next to him. He has no desire to try a hearing aid, and often blames me for mumbling. Afterward when I intentionally mumble an unkind word or two about him, he has no trouble hearing that.

Fast forward to our Passover Seder on April 19th. My aunt and uncle hosted the holiday and generously asked my husband to lead the Seder. In all fairness, my husband was a huge help for the holidays. Not only did he do all of the shopping in preparation, but he even made the Charoset for the Seder plate.  

Charoset is made from chopped nuts, grated apples, cinnamon and sweet red wine. It represents the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves to build the pyramids of Egypt.

My brother always volunteers to be in charge of the seating chart, and somehow he never fails to be surrounded by the same people on any given occasion. For example, whether it's my birthday or Mother's Day, you can always find him seated in between his biggest fans, my two sons. 

Since I was not the official host of this holiday dinner, my brother followed my aunt's lead. However, once his nephews took their seats he quickly positioned himself next to them. Meanwhile, my husband and I were seated at the opposite end of the table with the other grownups.

At one point there were three distinct conversations going on simultaneously at the dinner table. Though I was seated at elbow's length from my husband, for some reason he didn't seem to hear me when I asked him to pass a heavy platter. Yet, he had no trouble hearing the conversation between my brother and son from clear across the table.

I tried asking again. This proved to be a waste of time, as my brother added a hilarious punchline to my son's story and now my husband was drowning in laughter. Of course the middle of the table had no idea what he was laughing at. 

I couldn't take it anymore. Here I had done a lot of the cooking and I was asking for very little in return. Finally, I looked directly at my husband and bellowed, "What am I, chopped liver?" 

Then he passed me the chopped liver. Unfortunately, we were eating dessert at the time.



Tuesday, April 2, 2019

IWSG: How a Routine Dental Exam Led to Hoof & Mouth Disease

                                                         


It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support Group Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

                                             
                   How a Routine Dental Exam Led to Hoof & Mouth Disease

I was looking forward to a thorough teeth cleaning, when the dental hygienist caught me off guard. After she prepped me with an oversize bib and goggles; likening the contents of my mouth to a crime scene, she paused to ask me a very inappropriate question:

"Didn't you used to have a serious illness?"

I told her that I still have a serious illness.

Then she said, "Oh, well I remember you lost a lot of weight, but it looks like you gained it all back."

When I explained that I probably lost about 10 pounds and gained five back, she covered by adding that I looked much healthier now.

Thank goodness I floss religiously, or she would've let me know how she really felt.

Needless to say I was not pleased. I wanted to tell her off, but I was too busy rinsing and spitting.

The next day I relayed the story to someone on the dialysis staff.

She thought for a moment before asking, "So you get weighed when you go to the dentist's office?"





Tuesday, March 5, 2019

IWSG: Missing Mom

                                                     

It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support Group Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

                                                    Missing Mom    

                

(Mom and her boys in 2013)


When people ask how I'm doing, I usually respond that I'm sad but okay. Though I lost my mom in January, waves of sadness often come over me even in the most unlikely places. For example, I recently had a small breakdown at a car dealership.

It happened when we got a great deal on a new car that I know my mom would've approved of. It's a pretty shade of blue with chrome accents, as opposed to our last car that blended into every parking lot. But Mom described our old car best. She said, "It's perfect for a retired school teacher."

Because we have such a small family, we had a private graveside funeral, which was not ideal for the frigid and icy Chicago weather. That evening we held a shiva and memorial service where my brother, my two sons and I honored our mom and "Nana" with heartfelt eulogies.

My brother and the boys did a wonderful job and everyone seemed deeply moved. Our friends and family came together to help with the shiva, but someone whom I considered a close friend since our college days, was noticeably absent.

The day after my mom passed away, I phoned my friend, let's call her "Jess." She knew Mom was in hospice through a series of phone conversations and texts. Though she only lives about 20 minutes away, I haven't seen Jess since her daughter's wedding last March.

Jess expressed her condolences and generously offered to help with the shiva. Since we were just having a small gathering, I wanted to handle everything myself. I explained that I was still getting estimates on fish and meat trays. Then she offered some suggestions and offered to call places for me. I thanked her, but reiterated that I would take care of it myself.  

She kept insisting on helping me, so I suggested doing what I did for her mom's shiva the year before. After offering to send dinner to her family before the funeral and offering to bring something to the shiva after the funeral, her cousin (aka contact person) said that everything was already ordered. So I offered to make a contribution and brought a check.

For some reason, Jess took offense to this. It didn't seem right to her that I hadn't assigned a contact person, and Jess did not want to hand me a check.

In many instances, women have groups of friends handle shivas like assembly lines where one person orders the food, another collects donations from friends and family, and two or three friends set everything up before the family arrives. 

Soon some of my brother's friends also generously offered to contribute, so I asked my oldest and dearest friend Lana (name also protected) to be my contact person.

I texted Jess the next day with Lana's digits. Little did I know that trouble was about to ensue.

The day before my mom's funeral, I could sense that Lana was upset, but she wouldn't tell me why. After much prodding, she said that Jess accidentally sent her the worst text that she's ever seen. I don't know who the text was originally intended for, but Lana was referred to as a harsh expletive. Jess  added that Lana treated her like a "second class citizen" by declining her offer to help set up my mom's shiva. 

Lana was merely following my request, as it was held in the entertainment room in our apartment building which has a very small kitchen. My hubby helped me set up as much as we could the night before and Lana helped me set up and clean up on the day of.  My brother's friends were the coffee co-chairs, so there wasn't enough room for anyone else. If only Jess had reasonably expressed her concerns to me, instead of going on the warpath with an innocent messenger.

After receiving the disturbing text, Lana tried contacting Jess. Finally, Jess told her that she sent her the text by mistake and would send the check to me in the mail.

I couldn't sit by and let her treat Lana this way, but I needed to cool off first. Though my brother convinced me to send a kinder, gentler text, my first instinct was to consult my mom. Mom had the ability to handle any given situation and was always the voice of reason.

Later, I texted Jess at dialysis explaining that I heard the news while I was crying and writing Mom's eulogy. I told her that a few days earlier, my mom was unresponsive until Lana came to visit her. My brother was deeply moved when he returned to my mom's room to find her and Lana holding hands and singing songs. Before Lana left, Mom even told Lana she loved her.

I asked Jess not to contribute to the shiva and not to bother showing up, unless she sent Lana a "sincere" apology. I did not want to have any extra aggravation on the worst day of my life. I added that Lana is my oldest and dearest friend, who has been there for me and my family for more than 50 years.

Shortly thereafter, I received a text from Jess saying that she was glad that we saw her original text, because it expressed her "true feelings." She would not apologize for being treated like a "second class citizen," and she knows what it's like to have the "worst day of her life," so she would not be attending the shiva. Jess made it sound like a competition and I clearly chose Lana over her. She wished me and my family well and I never heard from her again. But she still had to send the last word to Lana.

The morning of the funeral. she told Lana she knew she'd show me the text. Jess also wanted to stir things up by adding that Lana's been on my "naughty list" a few times.

How stupid of me not to have realized that my mom's funeral was all about Jess.

Lana continued to apologize profusely for telling me about her confrontation with Jess and I told her that I would've never wanted her there knowing how badly she treated my best friend, and if she was bad mouthing Lana, I could only imagine what she was saying about me.

Lana went above and beyond to help me before, during and after my mom's funeral, and though she and my mom often joked about it, my mom really did think of her as a second daughter. We were also touched that many of Lana's family members also came to pay their respects, in addition to making a generous contribution to the Shiva. 

I really don't feel comfortable asking for anything, though my husband would be inclined to disagree. But I was pleasantly surprised when friends and family members generously offered to bring specific things like desserts, candy or fruit. I was also pleased to see cousins that we hadn't seen in years. Just making a condolence call is a gift in itself.

I also received an unexpected gift when I broke the news of Mom's passing to one of my oldest friends, who inspired me to write the ending of my eulogy. She said it was no coincidence that my mom died the same week as Carol Channing and like the Broadway legend, my mom had her own unique style and was "so cool."