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Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Sad and Beautiful Milestone

Shirl's visit to Barbara Kimball in March, 2011
On Thursday, 6 December, 2012, the phone rang in my office at about 10:15 A.M.  It was Shirley Kimball McDougall, my wife.  "Can you please come home and take me to Westboro?" she asked.  "Mom has had a heart attack, and she is in heart failure."  I was home twelve minutes later, and we soon left for Massachusetts.  We are still there.

Shirl's mother, Barbara M. (Landon) Kimball, was 96 years, 11 months, and 17 days old at that time.  Though not really in poor health, she had been praying for some months that soon there would come a morning when she simply did not wake up.  This kind, humorous, smart, and ever-caring woman felt that she had fully lived her life.  Barbara had raised three children of her own, all now loving and responsible adults, had contributed mightily to the raising of their 13 children, and was loved also by 14 great-grandchildren.  She had been a loyal and loving wife to her husband Basil Kimball, who had been drafted into the U.S. Army shortly before World War II hit America.  In fact, it was on December 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day, that the engaged couple decided to move up their marriage from the planned June date, as it suddenly seemed likely Basil would be overseas by that time.  Thus, they were married on 22 December, 1941.  (As it happened, Basil went overseas in 1944, and landed in Normandy at Omaha Beach on D-Day with a battalion of Army Engineers.)  Their marriage lasted until Basil's passing in August of 1990.

When we arrived at the Beaumont nursing home in Westboro, we learned that Barbara had had a pleasant breakfast with her fellow residents in the dining room.  After being wheeled back to her room and put back to bed, she had complained of chest pains.  These got worse, and Shirl's sister Joan Kimball Cichowski, a nurse practitioner, was called.  Joan came to the home, learned the seriousness of the situation, and called Shirl and her brother David, also in New Hampshire at work at the time.  We all came to Westboro as fast as we could.  The Beaumont's staff doctor had told Joan that Barbara had suffered a heart attack, a serious one that likely would be Barbara's "final event."  By the time we arrived, Barbara had been treated three times with an oral pain medication, and seemed comfortable, and awake, though quite groggy.  When Barbara whispered to Shirl that the pain was returning, another dose was administered, and Barbara fell asleep.  She slept all day, and all through the night, with Shirl at her side for 24 straight hours, and the rest of us with her for many of those hours.  Grandson Jesse McDougall and Cally, his bride of last June, drove from their new place in Rockport, Massachusetts, to lend their support.

Yesterday, on December 7th, at 10:50 in the morning, Barbara's slow breathing ceased.  The prayed-for morning had come.  Seventy-one years to the day since they decided to move their marriage forward because of the War, Basil and Barbara were once again united.  It could, in the end, hardly have been more peaceful. 

"God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change."

I will miss Barbara, whom I have loved as the best mother-in-law imaginable.  Still, I believe that her life was full, that she served us all nobly, and that she has earned her rest.  I trust that now she is hugging her husband in Heaven.


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