A Gift In Goodbye: A Legacy of Love

by Tess

In the past two months, I’ve spent most of my time in Michigan, to be near my 90 year old mother as she lived out her final days.

Let me sleep, for my soul is intoxicated with love and let me rest, 
for my spirit has had its bounty of days and night. 

A Little Background

My mom was an unbelievable, strong woman, passionate about all things family. Her life was deliciously filled with gardening, cooking and service to others.

I’m one of 10 children. She had 32 grandchildren, and 34 great grand children. 

She was bighearted, with a cheery countenance. Her last years were spent in a skilled nursing facility. The path to her room was worn, due to daily visits from tribe members, bearing goodies and flowers.

Mom spread joy, by regifting everything she received, to those around her. Known as the “flower and candy” lady, she lived to give. She became the center of attention without trying.

During one of our last phone conversations mom told me, “I’m dying. I’m ready to go.” The pain of living had become unbearable.

As if driven by an invisible force, I was determined to be there for her, as she had always been for me. I packed my suitcase, hopped on a plane and arrived within 24 hours.

Come close and bid me farewell; touch my eyes with smiling lips. Let the children grasp my hands with soft and rosy fingers.

My friend Julie sent me this text as I left town.

Julie: Be well. Feel all your love. Share it, spread it, expand it…fill you … LOVE…

Her meaningful text became the purpose for my trip.

Her journey home

When I arrive at her bedside, and she can barely speak, she mouthed, “I love you.” I was determined to create a light and serene vigil as I sat with her during her last 32 hours.

Dry your tears, my friends, and raise your heads as the flowers raise their crowns to greet the dawn.

Hearing is the last thing to go when a person makes their transition. As calls came in, I placed my cell phone by her ear so my siblings and her grandchildren could say, “I love you, thank you and goodbye.”

As I did, her breathing became softer and less labored.

Text that touched my heart:

Daughter Kristy: Is she coherent? I want to tell her I love her one last time. How are you doing?

Me: I’m good…memorizing face and smell. The air in here is filled with love and angels.

Kristy: Grandma is all love. Thanks for sharing feelings and environment with me. I just felt her love sweep over me…glad you’re with her.

Friend Lori: U doing okay? I love you, Tess 

Daughter Niki: Can’t sleep a wink no matter how I try. Grandma must be trying to fit that crown loaded with stars on her head!

Growing up we were told we would get a crown in heaven filled with stars for every good deed we did on earth.

Let me sleep, for my soul is intoxicated with love and Let me rest, for my spirit has had its bounty of days and nights.

Lori: You are love. (Just sayin’!) ~xo

Friend Megan: Wrapping your family in light. Let me know if you need anything.

Daughter Shelly: Mom, I think you should pray the rosary for Grandma!

My mother, was a devout Catholic, and prayed the rosary several times a day. I believe in the power of prayer of any kind. For years, during turbulent times, I would call and request rosaries for my family.

It never failed to bring us great comfort.

Me response: I placed a rosary in my mother’s hands. I found another for myself and I said the rosary for the first time in thirty years. I know she heard me as her breathing changed again.

Later, two older siblings joined my vigil. We were in joyful moods as we sang and laughed off-key. We spoke of good times and loving memories. We felt privileged to be there.

Hubs: I love you, mom. Have a great trip!

Sing of the past as you behold the dawn of hope in my eyes, for Its magic meaning is a soft bed upon which my heart rests.

Daughter Kara: Mom, how’s grandma doing? I don’t want her to suffer!

Me: Don’t worry. All is well. Then I place my phone by her ear so Kara can express her love a final time.

When her fever climbed to 105 degrees, a nurse placed a cool wash cloth on her forehead. I clipped a hot pink flower to it, the grim and serious faces of the nurses softened while they continued to care for her, as the day turned to evening.

Light the candles and burn the incense around my bed, and Scatter leaves of jasmine and roses over my body.

A few years ago my nephew, Matthew, gifted my mom with red patent leather, “Christmas shoes.” She wore them, joyfully for the holidays, Christmas and Sundays.

I was reminded of those shoes when my brother’s friend, Pam, whispered and paraphrased from the bible, “You will soon be in heaven, dancing down streets of gold.”

I loved that image! My sister and I found the shoes and placed them on her feet. She was ready to dance!

I have passed a mountain peak and my soul is soaring in the firmament of complete and unbound freedom.

We continued to hold, soothe and encourage mom to let go, follow the light, and fly with the angels. Mom was loved dearly by the entire staff at Heartwood Lodge. Many of the employees came and kissed her goodbye.

They cried as they declared their love and whispered what a joy she was to work with. The light and glow from the love in the room intensified. 

As she took her last breath, with Christmas music playing softly in the background, I thank her for loving me. I stole one last kiss.

I am cloaked in full whiteness; I am in comfort; I am in peace.

We chose to wear bright and colorful clothes to the funeral celebration. My eight siblings and I, made photo collages to be displayed at the service.

Mourn me not with apparel of black, but dress in color and rejoice with me.

Admiring our various collages, I was struck by the rich life she lived. When she wasn’t with my family, she was with another’s loving, laughing and living life out loud. Her cup runneth over. 

Go back to the joy of your dwellings and you will find there that which death cannot remove from you and me. Leave with peace, for what you see here is far away in meaning From the earthly world. Leave me.

In italics, The Beauty of Death XIV, by Khalil Gibran

Sandra, from, Always Well Within, suggests we choose a word to incorporate into our lives for 2011. In appreciation of mom’s legacy, I choose “love."  

{ 121 comments… read them below or add one }

John Sherry December 21, 2010 at 10:39 am

Tess, you are so brave in spirit and warm in heart to share such a personal story. I felt the tears as my mother passed away last year but they leave love written all over our hearts. Just as your post has on mine. Your mum would be so proud of a daughter whose light and soul shines bright across the world. Be blessed this Christmas and feel the peace of knowing she always looks over you and lives within you. May love be with you always and may she rest in beautiful peace for eternity.
.-= John Sherry´s last post…Why The Most Special Christmas Presents Will Always Be Your Presence =-.

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Christopher Foster December 21, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Such a beautiful post Tess. You did your mother proud. I agree 100 percent with John — your mum will always be with you in spirit.

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Betsy at Zen Mama December 22, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Aren’t you lucky to have had her with you for so long! My mom has told me you never get used to having your mom gone. I’ll be thinking of you!

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Robin Easton December 24, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Dearest Tess, this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever read. WHAT A GIFT you give us all by sharing it. And what a gift you and your mother shared. There is little I can say would not desecrate such intimate and sacred beauty. But i did want you to know that I felt touched by god reading this. I cried. I am hugging you, loving you and honored to be even a small part of your life. You are truly a one of a kind soul. I love you, Tess. Robin.

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Teri Williams December 26, 2010 at 9:30 am

Yeah! I finally took a day off to catch up on the pages I have saved this month. Thank you for sharing your love and brilliant light, Tess. I can feel your mother shining brightly through your words.

Yes, I blissfully choose to incorporate the word “love” into every part of my life for 2011. Am sending you and your family an abundance of love now.

Blissings, Teri Williams

P.S. My mom is also known as Candy Lady. My father was Gummy Man. They were an incredible team.

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Cathy December 28, 2010 at 7:11 pm

What a beautiful post. Our moms are so special to us and it is difficult to watch the aging process. She will be with you always, as I’m sure you know. Your writing is a wonderful tribute to her.
.-= Cathy´s last post…7 Great Authors Who Have Inspired Me =-.

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Jean Burman December 29, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Dear Tess… I am so late coming to this post… but couldn’t leave without commenting how wonderfully brave resilient and loving you have been throughout the process of allowing your mom to go.

I lost my mother right before Christmas five years ago… and so many memories came rushing back in reading your heartfelt words here.

Thank you taking us on this earnest and loving journey with you. There is trust and faith [in us] in doing so… and I for one appreciate this beyond words. Thank you.

Warm and encouraging hugs from the other side of the world..

Jean x

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Ginger December 30, 2010 at 11:28 am

Tess, thank you for sharing this with us. As I’m sure it did with everyone else reading this, it made me cry, yet I was upliffted by the passages and the outpouring of love and support by your family and friends. The entire post was touching and while I know you are dealing with this yourself, I hope it helps you to know that the hearts, thoughts and prayers from those of us reading your posts are with you. Thank you again for sharing your life with us.

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Clearly Composed January 5, 2011 at 8:33 am

Moms never really leave. We are born of them and when it is time, they live inside of us. May you feel her love with every breath. *big hugs*
.-= Clearly Composed´s last post… The Word For 2011 Is… =-.

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Laurie Pappas February 11, 2011 at 9:23 am

Oh Tess, I am so moved by this post. Your mom was such a wise woman and so full of love! And to transition so beautifully with all of you near her, if not in location, present with texts, voice, spirit etc. This is the way everyone could transition if they knew what you did. It truly can be a joyous experience for all. Tess, I can see why so many have commented on this. It’s very powerful and a wonderful reminder of spirit in action! Thank you so much for sharing.

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christine May 7, 2011 at 5:48 am

oh Tess, you and your words have touched my heart today. Thank you!
on such a beautiful saturday morning, i sit here with tears streaming down my face.
thank you!
christine xoxo

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Vidya Sury March 1, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I am drenched in the love coming off this post. What a wonderful experience.
Vidya Sury´s last post…The Haiku Challenge 2012 – Day 29 – Journey

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Nikky44 May 5, 2012 at 12:58 am

That is So beautiful and so touching!!
I wrote two posts on my Blog last months about saying goodbye to my mother
http://nikkysstrengthandweakness-nikky44.blogspot.com/2012/04/viva-la-musica.html
And the previous one.
I hope you will like them too.
Thank you so much for sharing those very touching moments with us
Nikky44´s last post…A Cry for Help

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Elle December 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Oh my gosh Tess, this brought tears to my eyes and goosebumps to my arms. What a beautiful memorial to your mum…it was truly moving and reminded me so much of my mother’s last hours when like you at your mum’s bedside, I was blessed to be with her.

What an lovely reminder of the connection we have with one another…we are all one after all.

Love Elle
xoxo
Elle´s last post…Lessons For Living An Epic Life ~ From Buckminster Fuller

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Tess December 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Hi Elle,
Isn’t life grand? I’ve received so many signs from my mom in the past two years. You?
xo

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Ha;rriet Cabelly December 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm

A most beautiful tribute to the natural process of life and it’s transition. You are fortunate to have been a part of this and to be able to see it, feel it and put words to it in a magnificient way. You’ve made this rite of passage a gift. Your mother was one lucky lady and she clearly bestowed upon you her beauty that you carry and exude in your wonderful way. What a blessing! What an example! Thank you for sharing this. We all need to know of this in such a positive way.

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Tess December 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Harriet,
Thanks so much for the lovely comment. I appreciate your support. Always! xo

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Evelyn Lim December 7, 2012 at 7:25 am

I am so touched and uplifted by your post. What a beautiful way to send your mom off on a new journey. She was very blessed to have you next to her. You are also very blessed to be surrounded by your lovely daughters and friends!
Evelyn Lim´s last post…Discover Your 5 Ancient Mirrors of Relationship

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Tess December 7, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Evelyn,

Thanks so much for your nice note and coming over from Facebook. I appreciate you!
Tess xo

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gina rafkind August 23, 2013 at 7:52 am

OMG Tess, I’m tearing right now……what a beautiful post……so touching…..thank you for sharing this……your mom sounds like an amazing soul…………
gina rafkind´s last post…A Lesson on Flexibility and Flow

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Sue Kearney (@MagnoliasWest) August 23, 2013 at 9:39 am

Powerful. I am humbled and honored to have read this. Thanks for sharing it with us on Jodi’s FB group.

Love and blessings,
Sue
Sue Kearney (@MagnoliasWest)´s last post…A Blue Moon Tuesday, pretty funny!

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Jodi Chapman August 23, 2013 at 10:42 am

Tess,
What a beautiful, heartfelt post, Tess. I’m so glad you were able to be with you mom and help her soul make its transition. She sounded like a wonderful woman, and I’m so happy that she knew you were there and she knew how loved she was. I know that we both know that she’s never left you. She’s loving you just as much and always will. I love you! XO
Jodi Chapman´s last post…Using the “F” Word…and Meaning it

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Crystal December 6, 2013 at 5:50 am

Oh Tess, what a beautiful post! I could feel the love and light leap from the pages and nestle into places within my own heart where sadness tries to take up residence as I edge ever closer to this moment with my own mom. Just yesterday I was told, “it could be any day”. Reading this brings me great comfort as I consider that my mom will be surrounded by many other beautiful souls like your mom, with whom I’m sure she’ll become fast friends. Thank you for sharing these precious moments and memories with the rest of us…I think in doing so your mom’s light, as well as your own, grow even brighter. Thank you….
Crystal´s last post…The Dream…

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Tess December 6, 2013 at 8:54 am

Thanks Crystal. I know your mom will take your love and light with her and she’ll be in good company on the journey home. Be blessed.

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Sam J Shelley December 6, 2013 at 9:25 am

Tess,

The love is strong on this page, wonderful post.

Thank you,
Sam
Sam J Shelley´s last post…Advice for those diagnosed with any ailment.

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Melissa July 25, 2014 at 7:06 pm

So beautiful Tess. You are an amazing soul and how blessed you are to have had such a wonderful giving Mother. I can only hope I can be there for mine when the time comes (hopefully a long time from now) Bless you sweet friend.
Melissa´s last post…4 Tips To Stop Sabotaging Your Business

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