Carrie's Life After Arthur
Sep 29, 2017 Cedars-Sinai Staff
It's been 5 months since Carrie Gabriel's brother, Arthur, 96, passed. At the cozy Park La Brea apartment the two shared for three decades, a framed photo of Arthur—a longtime Cedars-Sinai patient—hangs prominently near the front door. Even though Arthur is gone, Carrie, 95, won't go a day without gazing at the photo and greeting her brother.
It's just Carrie now—but this City of Los Angeles retiree is hardly alone. A steady stream of visits and calls from friends, loved ones, and members of what she calls her "extended Cedars-Sinai family" provides vital support for Carrie in this new chapter of her life.
"How do these people come into my life and do so much for me?" she asks. "Somebody surely likes me and is taking care of me."
When Arthur was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, he made the decision to enter hospice care rather than undergo surgery that offered little chance of recovery. Carrie, who had been Arthur's primary caretaker for the past 7 years, committed to making his final days as comfortable as possible, putting her life on hold to be with her brother.
"I was holding his hand. It wasn't easy. But I knew he wouldn't have any more pain."
On March 23, 2017, 5 months after his diagnosis, Arthur passed away peacefully at home with Carrie by his side.
"I wanted to be here while he made the transition, so I was," Carrie says. "I was holding his hand. It wasn't easy. But I knew he wouldn't have any more pain."
At Arthur's funeral, Carrie spoke about the special bond the two shared.
"I had the best brother that ever came on this planet," Carrie said to a crowd of over 50 people. "He was a darling brother. I have no reason to be sad today. These tears that you see me shed, they're not tears of sadness; they're tears of thanksgiving. I'm so happy that you all came out to give my brother his send-off."
After 7 years of devoting herself to Arthur's care, Carrie now faces life on her own.
Network of support
Carrie doesn't sit home alone since Arthur's passing—quite the opposite. Her son, Robert, and her 4 grandchildren check on her often. Neighbors stop by and spend time with her. Her phone rings throughout the day—calls from friends inviting her to dinner or to stay with them for the weekend.
Her network of support also includes Cedars-Sinai—clinicians and employees she met through Arthur and on her own.
"Carrie is coping beautifully. Arthur's spirit is still with her."
One of her closest relationships is with Dr. Sonja Rosen, a geriatrician who treated Arthur through the end of his life and who continues to see Carrie as a geriatric consultant. Dr. Rosen stops by Carrie's apartment once a month. She often brings treats, such as cookies and fruit.
"How many times do doctors come out to your house? You don't have too many doctors like that these days," says Carrie. "She has really been in my corner."
"Carrie is coping beautifully," says Dr. Rosen. "Arthur's spirit is still with her. She feels alone, but because his spirit fills the apartment, she doesn't feel too alone."
Carrie's support system also includes Dr. Amy Rutman, Carrie's primary care physician. Carrie recalls the warm reception she got during a recent visit to Dr. Rutman's office. "Everyone came to greet me," she says.
"She's a very, very strong woman, and very sweet and kind."
Dr. Rutman frequently calls Carrie to see how she's doing and to encourage her to stay busy. She understands the importance of keeping Carrie close to her and her staff.
"All the staff know her and she knows them, so it's a home away from home for her here," Dr. Rutman says. "She's a very, very strong woman, and very sweet and kind."
Dr. Gil Melmed, director of Cedars-Sinai's Advanced Inflammatory Bowel Disease Fellowship Program and Carrie's gastroenterologist, has known Carrie for years, and says he feels honored to play a role in her care, though she now visits his office infrequently. "I always ask her what her secret is," he says of Carrie's vitality.
A bit more time
Before Arthur became ill, Carrie's days were full. She visited museums and took trips with her seniors' groups and she volunteered with Jewish Family Services.
Volunteering is one of many activities Carrie is committed to resuming now that Arthur is gone. Quilting and knitting groups at Park La Brea interest her as well, and she always said she would return to playing the piano.
"I was able to stand there and talk to Arthur and hold his hand until his last breath."
But for now, Carrie says she needs a bit more time.
"Sometimes at the beginning of the day, since I had been used to doing things for Arthur, I find myself getting up and going to do something, but he's not here," she says. "I guess I have to take time to mourn."
Carrie often says she is thankful for the many people at Cedars-Sinai who supported her through Arthur's final months and continue to support her as she rebuilds her life.
Most of all, she's grateful to those who helped her achieve what was most important to Arthur and herself—a sense of comfort and peace in his final days at home.
"I was able to stand there and talk to Arthur and hold his hand until his last breath," Carrie says. "I am one thankful, appreciative person because it made it easier for me to deal with. When your main desire is granted—to have had him here with me to the end—what more could you ask for?"