This is the last week Antoinette will be working for us and I will be sad to say goodbye to her. She actually worked as a full-time caregiver for my 83-year-old aunt, Sylvia, who died almost three weeks ago after a three-year bout with cancer. I found Antoinette through Craigslist, and the moment I met her, I knew she was indeed a find. A treasure.
Born in Jamaica, Antoinette is pretty, single and in her mid thirties. She has family back home and family in New York. I know she’s especially close with one of her sisters, who lives near her in the Bronx. She recently filed the papers for her US citizenship. She is a picky eater, a meticulous housekeeper and as sensible as you can get.
Antoinette treated Sylvia like a mother. She attended to her from morning to night, helping her with the shopping, the laundry and cleaning the apartment. When Sylvia was still mobile, Antoinette would take her to the movies, to Bloomingdale’s and to her favorite gourmet food store. She would cook Sylvia’s favorite dishes and make sure she took all her medications. If Sylvia asked her to stay on a Saturday, Antoinette would say “yes.”
As Sylvia’s illness progressed, Antoinette was on top of every need, down to giving her drops of water through an eyedropper when Sylvia could no longer swallow. She dealt with the hospice nurse and doctors, the pharmacist, and the social workers who all wanted to give Sylvia as much comfort and peace as possible during her final—extraordinarily stressful—days.
We were blessed to have Antoinette with us. She has a deep soul. She held Sylvia close when she was frightened and keep her warm when she was shaking. She understood Sylvia better in nine months than others who knew her for a lifetime.
When Sylvia could barely talk above a whisper, she managed to tell Antoinette that she didn’t want to die when she was there because she knew how much it would upset her.