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Nearly 1,000 members of the Greatest Generation die each day, according to historian Walter Bomeman, writing at foxnews.com. The number apparently applies only to those who were in the military. Spouses don’t seem to count. That’s bizarre. World War II was a complete commitment of the society.
For me the particular recent loss from the Greatest Generation was different. I knew the person. It was my mother, Iverna Morgan. She was 93.
From the earliest days, she got to do something that seems to me useless—spell her name. Mom was the first child when she was born in 1919. But she was a girl. So her dad, Verne, a good guy by all reports, imposed the parental male ego and gave her a derivative funny name. Laying parental ego on kids is a disservice.
Two elements in her medical treatment at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque stand out. The first demonstrates medicine as art, not just science. The docs quickly decided she had an infection, but they could not identify it, even after extensive tests and consulting other doctors. Medicine as art. After 30 hours, the lead doctor called us at home where we chased a little sleep. Mom’s situation was dire, he said. They could not identify the infection. Surgery was the only possible approach.
Ten minutes later, the surgeon, a young-sounding woman, called. Abdominal surgery, very heavy duty stuff, was the medical option. We briefly considered, and, following mom’s often articulated wishes, said no surgery. The “do everything” medical route would have been torture and against Mom’s wishes.
Then, introducing the ethical element, the doctor said, “May I be frank with you? If you have people out of town, they should get to Albuquerque.” We thanked her for dropping the professional veil and telling us the truth.
We made calls, put Mom on hospice, and she died early the next morning.
Mom had adventures the last few years, far more than she desired, she observed several times the past few weeks. Two were fraud, one involving door-to-door magazine sales, the other a telephone deal from Jamaica seeking money to rescue an allegedly injured relative. She bit on both. We intervened and got the money back.
The big adventure was a 2011 assault. Mom was knocked down in her driveway, badly bruised and her purse was stolen. Spiritually, she was badly shaken. Her purse contained 30 items from cash to credit cards to check books. The advice from Mom’s bridge buddies, which she semi-observed, was to get rid of the purse. The police investigation got nowhere.
The final blow came a few weeks ago when a neighbor, offended by Sunday morning yard work noise, chucked two large bricks across the fence at Mom’s handyman. Felony charges are pending.
Mom liked to travel. She loved our country. As she became less mobile, the travel solution was that my wife and I did the logistics and she paid.
In 2005 we went to Washington, D.C., where she and Dad married in 1942. At the Lincoln Memorial, Mom wanted to chat with Abe. The elevator was broken, which I assumed cancelled the chat. Wrong. Then 85 and using a cane, she climbed the steps, alone and slowly. After visiting with Abe, she came back down the stairs, again slowly.
Retirement came in 2002, when Mom sold her business of 26 years, a stock transfer agency. Ten of those years included caring for my Dad, who had Alzheimer’s.
Mom was in her home until the end. She was stubborn about this. Starting in April, after several falls, in-home caregivers made being home possible.
She has joined Dad at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. Greatest Generation exemplar.