A Caregiver's Journey: Seven Days

Friends –

I didn’t see it coming. That’s why the sand through my hourglass has showered a long stretch of ocean beach between now and the last time I dropped by CaringWise.com to say hello and to share yet another slice of the good, the challenging and the priceless moments of caring for my 87-year-old mother – along with an updated care-giving twist on tending to my former husband and forever friend, Coyote McCloud.


It all started two months ago today when it was still chilly in Florida, a Wednesday sunrise when my two Toy Fox Terriers, Zeus and ZeZe, and I went looking for adventure on our morning walk.

I was sleepy. No, I was sleepy and bone weary.

For months, I had been pulling caregiver double-duty for my Mom and Coyote, who last June had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and given less than a year to live.

The geography of having Mom here in Florida and Coyote 700 miles away in Tennessee put an airplane ride over a mountain range of stress between two of the people I had spent most of my life loving most.

At first, my journeys to Nashville were more as an overseer to make sure a heart-of-gold man named Bobby Miller and an angelic young woman named Loni Dinwiddie had what they needed to offer Coyote around-the-clock care. But just as the three of us settled into that long-distance care-giving mode, Coyote’s needs heightened and I began spending more and more days and nights with Coyote, all the while worrying more and more about my young husband Clay Joiner having to tend to both Mama and our high-love, high-maintenance puppies all by himself.

Being the most blessed person I’ve ever known, I was able to circumvent the terrifying feeling of completely dropping the ball on tending to both Mom and Coyote when I asked for help, and my husband’s mother, Phyllis Joiner of Kentucky’s own Hopkinsville, volunteered to fly to Florida to tend to my Mom while I camped out with Coyote – a fairly legendary radio disc jockey in the South – on his “redneck yacht” on the lake next to Nashville’s airport.

What would be my last visit lasted seven days.

It was a tender time spent saying things that mattered and laughing over silly things that mattered even more. And then on what would be our last night together, we talked through midnight until 4 a.m., Wednesday April 6, then exchanged matching “goodnight I love you’s” before falling asleep.

I awoke about 11 a.m. that Wednesday but Coyote kept sleeping as his spirit took flight from this Earth early that afternoon. 

Now, those seven days with him stand unvarnished as the most magnificently amazing experience of my life because I have no doubt Coyote had one foot here and the other one in Heaven – and for reasons I also have no doubt I will never fully understand on this Earthly plane – he managed to share a glimpse of that glory with me.

I wrote a column titled “Life” in the “From Susan” tab of CoyoteMcCloud.com if you would like to peek through my eyes at Coyote’s journey and to get a glimpse of his destination.

I also want to say I thought of you, my co-caretakers at CaringWise.com, more than I can say while I was away.

Always love –