Annette Marie Moore, my oldest sister, died Thursday afternoon after a year-long battle with cancer and a 40+ year long battle with rheumatoid arthritis. Eternal rest grant unto her, o Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.
Light obituary: Annette was the oldest of 9 siblings. She was born in San Bernardino County, CA, in 1940, and grew up in various places in Southern California. She showed an early interest in science, specifically chemistry, and got a Masters in Chemistry in an era when few women did such things. After teaching college briefly, she ended up as a patent specialist in the pharmaceutical industry. She then got a law degree, and was set to become a patent attorney. However, at this point – about 30 years ago – the rheumatoid arthritis became so bad that the physical act of sitting for the bar was almost impossible. She tried anyway, twice, narrowly failing when, after sitting for hours, she was fighting through agony to write anything at all. The bar is the only academic thing any of us can remember her not acing. Eventually, she was declared medically permanently disabled. She never married.
Annette is survived by seven brothers and sisters and her 11 nieces and nephews.
Around the bar exam time, my wife and I got married. Annette attended our wedding – this marked the last time she left her house for anything other than a medical emergency or doctor’s appointment. So, for the last 30 years, Annette has been housebound. At first, when we lived in San Francisco or on the peninsula, we were able to visit her fairly often. Then, when work moved us to the other side of the Bay and family meant loading a bunch of small children (few of whom liked long car rides) if we wanted to go anywhere, we visited less frequently. But we always stayed in touch.
Annette was 18 years older than me. Our family of 9 siblings spans 24 years in age. So I knew her, really, only as an adult. My sister #3, Catherine, on the other hand, was almost raised by Annette. Catherine and I are the only siblings within 400 miles of where Annette lived, so we were looking after her, as much as she would let us.
Annette’s one desire, after having spent the last couple months in hospitals or nursing homes, was to go home. It took some time to set up – medical clearance, equipment, arranging for some help – but we got her home last Monday. So she got to spend her last 11 days at home.
Catherine essentially did a death watch, rarely leaving Annette over that time; I was more in and out, as I need to work. My wife Anne-Martine spent a few nights with her as well, and was heroically supportive, as is her MO. On Thursday, I was set to go down after work; Catherine and her husband were there, as well as a hospice nurse. On Tuesday night, most of the kids, my wife and I went down for a few hours; on Wednesday morning, our daughter Anna Kate, who had not made it down Tuesday, and I went down. All the kids got to say good-bye.
On Tuesday, the very kind hospice nurse warned my sister Catherine that Annette did not have long. By Tuesday night, Annette could no longer speak, but she could move her eyes and sometimes squeeze your hand if you held hers. We sang her Donna Nobis Pacem and the Salve Regina. It’s a bit awkward, as I am the only one in my family of origin who is not mad at God these days – Annette was quite unhappy with the Church. But, hey, we tried to sing her to her rest, said many prayers with her and for her, and had to, at the end, trust the mercy and justice of God.
Thursday morning, my brother-in-law texted that Annette had taken a further downward turn. A little after 3, he called to let me know she had died. In one of those twists, my sister Catherine had just stepped out for a minute to run an errand – after waiting with her for days, she was not there for the actual passing.
And, of course, I missed being there by a couple hours. She lived an hour’s drive away under perfect conditions – under normal traffic, and hour and half to 2 and a half hours is typical – Bay Area traffic. So I got there a little after 5, after gathering together a mini-wake’s worth of raw materials: stuff for margaritas (I make a good margarita) and fixings for sandwiches and falafels and some snacks. Annette wanted a ‘natural’ burial, which in the Neverland of Northern California, means you can arrange to have your remains picked up and refrigerated until they stick them straight into the ground. Opportunities for wakes, viewings of any sort, or burial Masses (not that that was going to happen!) are therefore in short supply. So I figured the 5 hours we had to wait for the cemetery people to come pick up the body (this natural cemetery is in Marin – figures. I wonder if they’ve thought of opening a special section for those who refused vaccination? It would sort of complete the circle…) would be the one shot we’d have to hold a little family thing.
The oddest part about this mini-wake – it worked really well. It was just my sister Catherine, her husband and me, sitting around talking about things, drinking one sturdy margarita each (we’d need to drive later) and eating some pitas and snacks. It would have been nice if my wife could have come, since she did a large amount of the work and the watching, too, but oh well.
It was surprisingly non-creepy to spend a few hours with the body of my sister. I sang her some more chants – the Salve Regina (Dominican version – it’s tricky, and I hadn’t sung it in 35+ years, so it was sloppy) and the Asperges Me (seemed appropriate). I then threw on a YouTube of the In Paradisum from Faure’s Requiem:
That was a little tear-jerking – in general, I’d sort of done my mourning while she faded away, and felt only relief once she died, but Faure brought it all back. She had always been very kind to my children her nieces and nephews, always showed enthusiasm for their art projects (she was a pretty good artist herself). The affection was mutual: for example, our 11 year old brought his violin to the nursing home so he could play a couple fiddle tunes he had learned for her, and she was very appreciative – that sort of thing.
Anyway, not much posting lately as all this has been coming down. The Brownson and marriage stuff just took too much thought, and the lighter stuff didn’t really hold my attention. Over the last 10 years, I’ve lost both my parents, my eldest child, and a sister, as well as the young sons of two families we know well. Probably not unusual in the big picture, but it sure feels like a lot to me. When I think about it, the next 10 years are unlikely to be any less death-filled, as my older siblings will be pushing 80 by the end of the next decade, and in-laws as well. I recall my mother lamenting that she had outlived practically all of her friends, and all 4 of her brothers. I guess that’s the price for a long life – she lived to 87.
Prayers, especially that God will have mercy on her, would be gratefully appreciated.