Is 'Poof' Preferable?


Is 'Poof' Preferable?

(Editor's Note: Today we welcome a new blogger--Colleen, who cares for her husband. You can connect with her on her profile page: @clwaustin.)

Sleep vanished at 12:24 a.m. I lie there, attempting to find that warm comfy spot once again, to empty the terrible day out of my head but it came to no avail. I pad quietly down the hallway and into the living room where my ailing husband is sleeping noiselessly on the reclining loveseat. I Hate When He Sleeps Quietly! I am happiest when he is snoring loudly, so loud he can be heard throughout the house. I can hear his breath, I can hear he is still breathing.

I ease myself next to him and take immediate notice of the steady rise and fall of his chest. As relief washes over me, I reach over my slumbering husband to take temporary possession of his valued possession, the remote control. Changing the TV from the infomerical which filled the screen, I begin surfing through the channels. Murder mystery, no. A re-run of a 70s sitcom, perhaps, but let's see what else is on. Finally, I happen upon an obscure British movie which stars one of my favorite actors, Alan Rickman, called "Blow Dry." Perfect. I have seen it before but anything with the dulcet tones of Rickman always eased my mind.

I nestle next to my still slumbering husband, not wanting to disturb him and also trying not to mind the staggering release of each breath. I was intent on concentrating on the movie, I needed to forget about...well, just forget. The premise of the movie is about a hairdresser who discovers that she is at the losing end of a long battle with cancer. Then there is an affair with another woman, an attempt to mend broken bonds between loved ones. Really a chick flick genre, which I don't particularly like. However there was one point in the movie which snapped me to attention.

The terminal hairdresser played by Natashia Richardson begins crying as tells the elderly customer of her impending demise and her fear of telling her family. The elder woman's response was this: "I lost my husband years ago, one day we were together, he was healthy, then 'Poof!' he was gone. Never had a chance to say goodbye, he never had a chance to tie up loose ends!"

The movie went on about some sort of hair cutting competitions but I stopped paying attention at the old woman's word: "Poof!". I gaze upon my husband as he let out a sharp gasp which was then followed by a long thin wheeze. I began to ponder a rather scandalous thought. Would "poof" had been preferable to the long arduous journey my husband and I have taken? I remembered all the times I thought I was saying goodbye to my husband. The four departures that I thought were definite and the myriad reminders that his end could come soon. What if I allowed Death to take him the first time? What if we didn’t fight, didn’t pray, just allow Death to have his way?

Death! I have grown to regard this being as a tormenting bully, taking pleasure in torturing the ones we love. It whispers threats in your ear, "Today's the day, I'm gonna take him. Nope, not today, but perhaps tomorrow. You never know... you never know!" It is sadistic how he  batters our loved ones' bodies, souls, and minds.  Hmmm...perhaps yes, Death would not be quite so bully-ish if he was mercifully quick.

Perhaps a trip to the past would better illustrate my dark perception of Death. Let me take you more than forty years into the -past. It is 1969, a four-year-old girl sits in front of her family's new 14-in. color console television set. A burst of kalidoscopic color bursts onto the screen as the all-too-familiar music signals the beginning of the tot's favorite show. A little girl appears on the television, there is much resemblance between her and the girl watching. They both have freckle upon their cheeks and they both have two banana like curls on either side of their heads, but the biggest similarity is that they both possess the same blond hair, eyeglass-wearing doll named Mrs. Beasley. Yes, the show was "Family Affair" and I never missed a show.

I loved Buffy, I was Buffy! I looked like her, dressed like her, I even lisped like her. I also had a brother, not my twin but older. He also looked very much like my TV twin brother. He sported flaming red hair, a mass of freckles and ears that protruded far from his head. However, the likenesses end there, where Buffy's brother Jody was nice and supportive, my brother was mean and sought out ways to torment his two younger sisters. As an example of his mean-spirited nature, my sister would always want to be included when the "Family Affair" resemblances were pointed out, she would always ask, "Well, who do I look like," hoping the response would be that she resembled the oldest and prettiest TV sibling Sissy. My brother did not hesitate in dashing those hopes by loudly stating "Mr. French", the show's portly bearded butler.

Being the youngest, I usually got the worst of the torment and he knew the best way to get to me was through my dearest possession, Mrs. Beasley. The poor old girl was tortured and abused in a plethora of different modes. I never knew what I was to find when I  got home from school. One day, my brother chopped off her hair with the scissors from his new Boy Scout knife. Another, he gave her a frontal lobotomy using the sun and a magnifying glass to make the incision. And if there ever was a time I could not find her, I would generally find her hanging from the clothesline with her apron wrapped around her neck. That poor doll was mercilessly tortured at the hands of my malicious brother. Yet, every time her doom was near, I would bellow out to the "authorities" in a fervent act of prayer, and soon either Mom or Dad would swoop in and rescue her in the nick of time. As she was delivered back into my arms, I would cuddle her close and swear to use every means to preserve her.

One particularly harrowing experience I remember all too well. As I was making my way to the bathroom, I heard the sloshing of water and the all-too-familiar laughter of my brother inside. I peeked around the door and to my horror he had Mrs. Beasley by her yellow-felt feet and was dunking her cropped blond hair into the toilet. He saw me and grinned widely, "I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna flush her down the toilet!" Being only four, I didn't have any concept of size and it didn't occur to me that my poor doomed doll was too big to go down that small hole. So, once again, I gushed forth a request for the authority to appear and once again save my beleaguered dolly. Three times poor Mrs. Beasley took the plunge and still no response from the higher ups. I let out a shriek that would literally wake the dead, and then for added dramatics I began jumping up and down and flaying my arms about. Then spinning around in circles, I performed a ritualistic dance that would get the attention of any parental God. It was only then that my father came to save poor Mrs. Beasley. He had been napping, and obvious tired of hearing my constant pleas for mercy. "Jeeesus Christ!” he roared down at me. “It’s just an old raggedy doll that will end up in the trash anyway!” My brother’s mouth curled into the most vicious smile. Father was on his side, I would lose the fight eventually. I hugged Mrs. Beasely tighter, the pressure wringing toilet water onto the floor.

Death will happen, yes, eventually he will win. Yet, is it better to fight for every minute, every moment, no matter the abuse and torture we receive? Or just lie down to the inevitable? Is one more kiss, one more touch, one more embrace, worth the callous torture that Death has inflicted upon my husband and me?

The question is, like in the beginning of my story, is "Poof" preferable? If I did allow my brother to roast Mrs. Beasley on the grill as he had planned on the family Fourth of July celebration, would that have saved me from years of torment? I recall again the old woman's word: "Never a chance to say goodbye". Is that preferable to saying goodbye over and over again?

imagesAs I nestle deeper into the arms of my now snoring husband, I glance up at a curio shelf just above us. Mrs. Beasley, faded, worn and still displaying her battle scars, smiles down on us. As I drift off to sleep, I realize that, for me at least, that question will never be answered for I will fight on. Fight on until the end.

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I must mention, today my brother is my biggest hero! He is a veteran of both Gulf wars and has retired to the Philippines. Of all my family, he is my biggest supporter. I love him so much!


Colleen, what a great expression of what so many of us deal with. When we brought our daughter home from the hospital 23 years ago, we were told she would probably die in my arms as an infant. Early on, I prepared for the \"poof\" which never came. Waiting and \"fighting\" nearly killed ME! Then I heard a sermon about how if you were still alive (no matter what condition), God wasn't done with you yet. It dawned on me that we didn't need to be waiting and fighting. We needed to be living, letting God work in and through us. And here we are 23 years later - celebrating life and each other. Our precious girl and caring for her has taught us so much about what really matters and the joy of unconditional love. Our marriage has been blessed, our other children are richer for years of loving and caring for her. NO ONE knows when their time is gonna be up, so we live and love and celebrate another day.


Colleen, I do like the thinking and pondering of the \"Poof\",,, there are so many pros and cons in relation to how soon, when, if we get to say \"Goodbye\". I too remember watching Family Affair and am so glad you have Mrs. Beasley today. Thank you for sharing your story and memories!


Welcome,Colleen. Your post was so spot on... the battle... fighting and when is it time to let go. I've often contemplated that \"Poof\". \r\n\r\nAnd I love the Family Affair story... thanks for the memory and sharing your story.


Colleen, I erred in our chat last night....referred to your story as the 'Brady' story, sorry! I knew all along it was about the little girl in Family Affair and yet compared it to the one on the Brady bunch. Loved it, again, just messed the names in replying, ha...old age, I guess! :)

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