“Look up here, I’m in heaven I’ve got scars that can’t be seen, I`ve got drama, can’t be stolen, Everybody knows me now. LAZARUS. David Bowie.
THE UNSTERBLICHE (THE IMMORTAL) SISTER WALLNER. 1923 – 2011.
I first met Sister Wallner after the birth of my son, 1993. She came to visit me in the hospital with a homemade applesauce, which she had put into a glass jar that had previously been filled with pickled garlic. “Sister” because she was a member of the same church as I was, where everyone is called/or can be called “brother” and “sister”. Although I became very good friends with both her and her family, I never called her anything other than Sister Wallner.
At the end of WWII Sister Wallner walked back from from Greece to Austria, through Yugoslavia. Yes, walked. We do know that it was extremely traumatic, and she carried the scars throughout her life. It did not kill her though.
In 2003 Sister Wallner had two hip replacements within a very short time of one another, and was sent to the rehabilitation centre to recover and to start physiotherapy. She was told under no circumstances could she leave leave the hospital grounds. Unfortunately the people in charge had no idea that you couldn’t tell her what to do. She shot off one evening, as fast as she could on two sticks, and indeed did walk out of the hospital, onto the pavement, and then decided to cross the road, on a curve. The Audi A3 was going way too fast, and she should not have been there.
Her daughter, (the infamous Doctor Fox, my eternal partner-in-crime, but that’s a Strange Tale for another day) and son-in-law received a phone call, informing them that Sister Wallner/mother/mother-in-law was lying in the intensive care unit and things were not looking good. They lived about a 45 minute drive away, and so called us to go straight up to the hospital, and they would meet us there. We were and still are only a five minute drive away.
Sister Wallner was unconscious, green skin, black and blue eyes like you have never seen, a massive cut on her head; I thought that my husband was gonna pass out when he saw her, as he too turned the same shade of green. For the first time I offered a prayer for her well-being, little knowing that I would find myself doing the same thing many years later. It did not kill her though.
As she became older she began to have various strange episodes and was at times extremely difficult, and Dr. Fox and I cared for her Mum in different ways. Together we moved her from her home of many years, into a smaller apartment. Dr Fox and her family had moved into the area several years earlier to be closer to her mother. Around 2008 Sister Wallner’s health, both physical and mental, started to go downhill.
THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
I had just come out of the supermarket and was loading the car, when I got a call from Dr. Fox. “My Mom has just slumped over, and is dying, and if you wanna see her you had better get your ass down here quick.” I was there so fast, like in two minutes. Parked the car, and ran upstairs. It was 11:00.
I ran in through the door the same time as Dr S arrived. Now let’s be clear, this was not a doctor that was coming to rescue Sister Wallner, no. This was the doctor dude from the council who had come to reevaluate her level of care, to increase the level of financial aid she was receiving. Which was why Dr Fox was there in the first place.
Sister Wallner was a Grinchy shade of green, not breathing, and had her eyes been open, she would have been staring vacantly. It was not the first time that Dr Fox and I had been confronted with a dying person – unlike the doctor apparently, who took a quick pulse check, started sweating profusely, and started walking circles in the kitchen. Dr Fox and I were holding her slumped Mom between us. We told the guy to go home. He did mumble something about maybe calling an ambulance, but we sent him packing, telling him we would deal with the situation ourselves.
Between us, we carried the ever-so-slightly-stiffening, and bloody heavy, Sister Wallner into her living room and laid her on the sofa. Once again I offered a prayer, asking that she be taken in peace. Dr Fox called her husband and said her mom had just died. I called my husband and said Sister Wallner just died. Dr Fox called meals-on-wheels and said Frau Wallner had died and would not be needing her Mittagessen. We sat at her mother’s side.
Suddenly Sister Wallner took an almighty great big breath, and started to sit up. “I’m hungry, where’s lunch?”
We called our husbands and said it was false alarm. They were not surprised, a bit weird yeah, but then you really have to know our two families to understand where things are on the weird scale. The tipping point for us was when Dr Fox called the meals-on-wheels back and told them that Sister Wallner had not in fact turned-up-her-toes, and that she would like her lunch delivered, preferably as soon as possible, and we started to laugh, albeit tinged with hysterics. And this did not kill her.
As sure as little apples grow on trees, this happened.
After this episode we were fortunate to be given a place in the Altersheim (Old Folks’ Home) here for Sister Wallner. She had no idea that she was going into one. Dr Fox organized it all and waited there, as I went to pick Sister Wallner up from outside her apartment, having lied to her about going out for tea, to get her to come out and wait for me. Basically a kidnapping. I took her to the home, and she was not a happy camper. But after a relatively short period of time, she settled down, and lost a lot of her stubbornness and her need to fight so many battles. She softened after having had such an incredibly difficult life, and began to have some peace.
Of course she did die. Because no one is immortal. It was the 24th of November 2011. My birthday. Dr Fox was on her way over to me to celebrate it, when she got the call from the Old Folk’s Home. “Your mother has been taken into hospital and you need to hurry if you want to see her before she passes away.” Been there, done that, she thought. She called me and said “My Mom is dying again and if you wanna see her, meet me at the hospital.” We hurried, but this time we were too late.
CQ of APJ
Dr Fox and I have talked about this experience we had together many times over the years. Recently Dr Fox`s daughter, a medic, said it would seem that this might have been what is known as the Lazarus Syndrome, so rare that not fifty cases have been recorded. The spontaneous return of a normal heartbeat after failed attempts of resuscitation. Except no one tried to resuscitate her. Why would you? She was the Unsterbliche Sister Wallner.