An Update on Florence Littauer’s Health
It is so hard to watch my mother, Florence Littauer, go from being strong, confident, and colorful to being frail, feeble, and frightened. I know I am not the first person to face such emotions—nor will I be the last, as death is a part of the cycle of life and most of us will face the death of a parent at some point.
My father died suddenly in 2002. He had a heart attack while sitting at his desk doing what he loved. My mother was in New Mexico with me. He usually traveled with her, but since she’d be speaking at a writer’s conference where both my sister, Lauren Briggs, and I would be, he stayed home to catch up on some desk work. Florence was on the stage speaking when we got word of my father’s passing.
For my mother, the decline has been slow—beginning about ten years ago when she had a bad bout with shingles. Shingles hit her when she was 82. It was in her scalp and eye. At that time she was still speaking, albeit with a scaled back schedule, and participating in the teaching of the CLASSeminar. Shingles retired her—though she continued to live in her own home and was basically independent.
Two-and-a-half years ago, she had a four-week hospitalization that started with an infection and ended with pneumonia. At that time, we all thought the end was near. But she rallied—not to her former level of independence but enough that she could still have a nice life. After several months of 24/7 in home care, she was well enough to travel to Texas and move into my home so I could care for her. For many months she gained strength and then plateaued. If you follow her on Facebook, you know how much fun she has had in the time she has been in Lubbock. I made sure she had an active social life—with lots of places to wear her cute clothes.
Late last year, I noticed a subtle, but increasing, decline. Then COVID-19 hit. The parties and socialization stopped. She told me she was feeling weak and tired. I wasn’t sure if it was just aging or if it was simply because she had no reason to get out of bed (though she did get up every day), nowhere to go, no places to wear her cute clothes. For her ninety-second birthday, April 27th, my sister Lauren flew in and, despite social distancing guidelines, we had three days of parties. She had a great time!
The Beginning of the End
Two weeks later, on May 17 she suffered a stroke. On June 21, she had a heart attack. On that day, I was sure it was over. But by Monday, she showed some improvement and continued on a slow, but steady, upward path for almost two weeks. Despite many good days when it seemed she was going to beat it, the overall decline has been dramatic.
On Thursday, July 2, I walked into her hospital room. She was sitting up in bed, feeding herself lunch and was excited to see me. She wasn’t talking much, but she did say a few words and could communicate. That afternoon, she sat up in the wheelchair for most of the afternoon—including a tour up and down the hospital hallway (the first time she’d been out of her room).
Once again, I thought maybe she was going to pull through. She fell asleep in the wheelchair. When her dinner came, I tried to wake her up, but couldn’t. After a couple of hours, I got the staff to get her back to bed. With minor exceptions, she’s basically not woken up since. I did get some soup into her the next day and even less the day after. Sunday, July 5, she’d open her eyes for a moment or two every now and then but wouldn’t eat or drink.
On Monday, we brought her home to my house and engaged hospice. She’s resting comfortably in her own bed. Tuesday, she was a little more alert and seemed happy to be home. Several of my friends have come by to say “good-bye.” She responded positively to the love they shared. Last night my brother flew in from St. Louis. In her more awake moments, she turns her head in the direction of his voice and looks at him. We don’t really know if she knows that it is Fred who is here.
Send-off Party Plans
My friends and I have planned a send-off party for her that we believe she’d love—including hot-fudge sundaes! My cousin, Rev. Laurie TenHave-Chapman (whose father did my father’s funeral) will come in from Michigan, as my mother wanted, to help celebrate her life. The table decorations will be in the blues, to match the cover of her best-selling Silver Boxes book, and will include individual silver boxes and pieces of her Wedgewood collection. I’ve already communicated with the Card-My-Yard folks. On the day of party, they will post their letters on my front yard to say: “Welcome Home Florence! Love, God.” Those in attendance will be attired in colorful clothing. I already have her signature Silver Boxes speech digitized and ready to post on the new ThePersonalities.com site—which I will do when she goes to her heavenly reward.
In one of her good phases of this long process, I told her she was amazing. She looked at me and said: “I want to be amazing.” I asked her to say it again so I could capture it on video to send to my siblings. She looked into my phone and told me: “I want to be really amazing.” I believe you’ll agree with me, Florence Littauer has lived a life that was really amazing!