She had a sense of humor that was absolutely brilliant, in many ways similar to Penny's, and she adored art and music, and she had a smile that transformed that homely face into something nearly angelic.
She was Penny's first care receiver - that meant Penny would go visit her, and listen. It wasn't my business what she talked about, and Penny never shared any of it, except inasmuch as Vickie would say "Oh, go ahead and tell Steve about this." She had heart disease, and lung disease, and diabetes, and they were killing her slowly.
She wanted a body transplant. She was emphatic that it all had to go, no keeping the useless parts.
She was in immense pain at times, and she insisted on retaining her own place, retaining her own independence, even when she was paying for people to care for her. She had a family, a sister and nieces, but the relationship was not terribly deep.
She was a beautiful person, and a total hedonist. She had been a lawyer, and a very good one, in the sixties when women were barely able to get employment in law firms. She had been married, to a man whose name she kept because it was the only thing about him she could stand. When her ex-husband died, we showed her the obituary and she was thoughtful, but also highly amused at some of what the obituary said.
Her body betrayed her. She loved fine food, good wine, she adored gambling (and was quite good at it) and she liked mysteries and the various law shows. She couldn't walk, she had heart attacks, and last year, breast cancer, which she had removed because it was likely to make her end-of-life unnecessarily painful.
She fell, last week, in the shower, and wasn't strong enough to get up, though she tried. They took her to an emergency room, and had a conversation about her DNR order and her 'no extreme measures' order. Her doctor told her that she needed to eat (she hadn't been, for almost two weeks, apparently) so that she could feel better and tolerate the pain killers. And they wouldn't let her go home.
She wanted to die at home, but I'm not sure how much that apartment would count as home for her.
It was a personal space, anyway, in an assisted-care center for over-fifty adults. She loved it for being unlike the apartment she had been in before - insecure, and surrounded by people who were somewhat rude.
In any case, they didn't permit her that, because it would've been impossible for her to get proper care there. This didn't stop her from trying to get our friend Janet to ride her chair onto the transport bus and to the hospital, so she could escape. She'd done that before, escaping from a care center which was doing absolutely nothing. She must've thought, "I can do this again," but she wasn't that strong.
I saw her in church a month ago. She looked fine, better than she had for a long time, but said she was feeling weaker, and that should have rung alarm bells for me.
Sunday, friends passed a card around to sign. I signed it, "You may not do wheelies down the freeway in your chair. You must wait until you can use the race track." I hope she got a smile from that.
When she passed, this afternoon, it was peaceful, and frankly, she'd been wanting this for a very long time.
She is, like Penny, freed from the prison of a 'body of death' and has been taken home.
I'll miss you, Miss Vickie. Don't run too wild out there in the real world. And if you bother to have a chair there, instead of dancing, pop a few wheelies for me.
EDIT: Note, for those people who might be curious about Stephen Ministry, it is a lay pastoral care ministry concentrating on confidential, supportive, Christian friendship. By naming Vickie and mentioning that Penny was her Stephen Minister, I would be breaking the rule of confidentiality except that Vickie was extremely up-front about it, and told us to talk freely about the relationship with others; naturally I don't share any of the things they talked about together, as that would be a violation of the confidentiality AND would be gross speculation, since Penny didn't discuss it with me.