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Monday, 27 April 2009

Seven Days To Say Good-Bye

By Dani Ferguson of The Musings of a Middle Aged Woman

On April 10, 2009, I was suddenly no one’s child any more, an orphan at the age of 59. On Good Friday, my 91-year-old mother passed away, 17 years following the death of her husband and my father. But for 58 days my brothers and I were witness to the most amazing spiritual journey of our lives. On Friday, April 17th I proudly gave the following eulogy in honor of my mother. I want to share it so others may know of my mother’s life and my blessings.

The best way for me to describe my mother would be to say she was truly the most unselfish person I have every known. She was a devoted wife, a loving mother and an awesome grandmother. Her greatest passions in life were her children and I’m still not sure if she ever quite forgave us for growing up.

My first recollection of my mother was one of pure adoration. I always thought she was the most beautiful mother of all the mothers. I would often sit on her bed and watch her as she sat at her dressing table combing her hair. Mother had a natural beauty that required little if any adornment. As beautiful as our mother was she was just as sweet, never thinking of herself but always of others. She was a natural born mother, nurturing and loving with a gentleness that made us feel safe and secure.

Our parents were married for 54 years and after my father’s death my mother told me that he had been the salt and pepper, the seasoning in her life and that life would never taste the same again without him and it never did.

She was never quite the same after our father died but when mother became ill just 58 days before her death something miraculous happened. She reconnected with us in a way that we had not seen since the loss of her husband and our father. During her illness she talked and shared so much with us, her memory no longer made hazy by time. Those 58 days were a gift that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.

Just before my mother was released to go home with hospice, I went to the hospital one evening after work. We had a good visit and although she was a bit tearful she seemed to want to talk. She kept telling me how much she loved all her children and for the first time that I could remember she talked about how much she missed my father and her own mother.

I asked her if she was afraid of death and she answered, "I think I am.” We continued to talk for a while and I shared with her my thoughts about death. I told her I believe God was with us when we entered this world and I believe he will be with us when it is time to leave. I reminded her of what she had told me when I learned I was expecting twins. I had expressed my concern to her about the pain of delivery but she assured me that nature had a way of preparing a woman and that after nine months I would be so ready I wouldn't think about the pain.

She also told me that once I held those babies in my arms the pain would be forgotten. I said maybe death is the same way. Maybe God prepares us for the end and we realize we are tired and ready to rest. Maybe when we see his face we forget the pain of leaving.

Once mother was home we did everything we could to keep her comfortable and free of pain. We continued to share stories of our lives together and she was at peace. We began the last seven days of her life and tried to wrap her in our love. One day she said, "I feel your love" and I replied that I felt hers as well. She also told me that she was tired and I realized that soon we would need to tell her it was okay to go.

One morning, the chaplain from hospice came by to see her and while he was there he sang to her. From the other room I heard her sweet voice singing along, How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace. I remembered how I could always pick out her voice in the church choir when I was a little girl. Of course I thought she had the most beautiful voice of all.

Later that same evening she told me she could feel our love and I assured her that we felt hers as well. So many friends and family came to see her to tell her how much she had meant to them. My niece Tonya came and while she was here she was looking through an old photograph album. In the album she found pages and pages written by my mother documenting the story of her life. None of us ever knew that she had written this account.

Later that night I sat in my mother’s room and read it to her. She just smiled as she listened to her own words telling the story of her life as a child, a young mother and a grandmother. She wrote how it had been very hard to pinpoint the years of her life when she was the happiest. She said, “Every phase of my life had it’s own reward.”

The next day it was apparent that death would be soon and I put my face close to hers and thanked her for being my mother. She reached up and touched my cheek and whispered, "Thank you for being my sweet girl". What more could I ever ask of her.

God blessed me so much and made those last days so special. I was honored to be with her at that moment. She was the mother who cut out paper dolls with me and taught me how to be a mother. She gave me life and I was honored to be with her when she parted this world to be with her heavenly Father.

After mother’s passing, a thousand memories flooded my head. One of my favorite memories is of my mother singing to me when I was a little girl. The only song I ever requested to hear was Silent Night and no matter what time of year it was or if it was 100 degrees outside it was the lullaby she sang.

We talked about my favorite song choice a few days before she died and together we sang Silent Night. It was a special moment. Later that same evening my niece Gena was talking to her grandmother and said, "Grandma, you are going to be my angel and I want you do something to let me know you are there."

My mother smiled and replied, "I'll sing."

On Easter Sunday, 48 hours after mother’s death, my family decided to attend the sunrise Easter service here at church. We were the first ones to arrive and as Reverend Normille was setting up for the service in the atrium she placed a ceramic angel on the alter. She said she had brought it to be the angel for the service and as she held it she noticed a key on the bottom. She turned the key and the little angel started to play, Silent Night, Holy Night.

For one moment I literally stopped breathing and then the tears just started to fall. My mother was singing to me again and I heard her song loud and clear. This is the church I grew up in hearing my mother's sweet voice in the choir and I heard it again that morning. Just when I believed I had already experienced the most spiritual experience of my life she shared with me just one more. She let me know with no uncertainty that death is not the end but only the beginning.


[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


She was beautiful. Thank you for the story.

Such a beautiful story about a beautiful woman - and her beautiful daughter. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Dani - I'm a 71-year-old emotionally bankrupt male, and I don't cry. But even I couldn't maintain my composure as I read these wonderfully written words.

There are so many neat images in this, but my favorite was, "I'm still not sure if she ever quite forgave us for growing up." - Sandy

What a beautiful eulogy, Dani. It's quite apparent through your lovely words that your mother did a wonderful job. And I loved the way you ended it. I'm sure you've touched a lot of people with your story. Thank you.

Uh...I never had a mother. I mean she was there but wasn't a mother.
It was bittersweet for me to read your story, but way more sweet than bitter. What a beautiful person inside and out. Thankfully, you totally appreciate it.

What a beautiful tribute to your wonderful mother, Dani.

It was a beautiful story and I was touched by it. I was lucky enough to have an unselfish sweet mother also and I will never forget her.

I can hardly see through my tears. This is an articulate, powerful expression of love and faith. Thank you for sharing it.

Thank you for sharing your beautiful, heartfelt eulogy in honor of your mother's life.

Now I have to go and clean up my face, as I have to go out, and it's obvious that I have been bawling.

A touching tribute to your mother. It is a blessing to have had the kind of relationship that you shared with her. Though I loved my mother dearly, we did not have that kind of relationship. You are blessed.

A lovely tribute. Your mother was truly more beautiful than most of the movie-stars of the era.

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