The Journaling of Jane T. Heaton
Written with a pen from the funeral home where my dad, Dr. Dale L. Heaton, was cremated just two months ago, are my mom, Jane T. Heaton’s last words. They are written in her journal.
Journal writing is a dying art. It is being replaced by more public—even exhibitionist—forms of “private” writing such as, well, blogging.
She kept journals her whole life, and the life she chronicled there was long and … fruitful. She had 6 children, of which I am the youngest and most spoiled. I’m pretty sure I got away with stuff that would have been unthinkable for my older brothers.
The expression that my own childhood endeavors elicited most was “For crying out loud!”, followed closely by “Honestly!” as in, “Honestly, did you really have to convince ALL of you 8-year-old friends to moon the trucks on the highway?”
That’s not in any of her journals (to my knowledge), but these journals did allow her to write an accurate and detailed history of our family. She published this in 2000 to help commemorate her 50th anniversary with my father.
The final words she wrote were also dedicated to him. She is writing about another history she had planned “as a gift to the legacy of Dale. I owe this to him and then I will have done right by him.” His death on September 11th was a forced and abrupt separation from habits formed, refined, and firmly engrained over 63 years of marriage … and from continuous vitalizing conversation.
It was their habit to talk nightly in bed, often well into the early morning.
In the two months after his death, and up until the day of her stroke, my siblings and I would get calls from her at 3 o’clock in the morning. These conversations were probably a very poor substitute for those she was so used to having nightly with my father. As my sister has written in this year’s holiday letter to all of my parents’ friends, she died of grief.
Hours, or possibly minutes after writing these words in her journal, urging herself on with yet more work that she still had left to do, she was halted in her tracks. A massive stroke deprived her of the use of her entire right side. No longer able to talk, or eat, or even drink water, she carried on, mind and indomitable will intact for another 17 days, until this past Saturday.
Visiting her during this time, she was able—with her eyes—to tell us that she was very happy to hear our singing of the hymns she had selected for dad’s memorial service. That she was glad we had come to see her. That she loves us, though she could no longer say it.
We know. It’s recorded in every word of your lifelong journal.
Rest now. You can rest easy. Your work here is done.
It was done well.
This blog has been loaded in recent months with some rather personal content: Hurricane Sandy Beachfront Experience, Social Media, Communities and Disaster, Tronvig Group in the Red Zone, The Truth Will Set You Free: The Story of Tronvig Group, Stories About My Father: Dr. Dale L. Heaton. It is part of our story, and so we ask your indulgence.