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."