New Year’s Day, 2015, I was settling in to sort, shred or re-file some more papers from my file cabinets when I got the call from one of the nuns at the Queen of Peace Residence that I’d been anticipating for the last five years. Mom’s health had taken a turn for the worse very quickly. I should hurry, if I wanted to say goodbye.
I dressed quickly and was reaching for my coat when the second call came in, telling me not to rush, “Mother has gone home.” I rushed anyway, and was able to sit with mom for a couple of hours before the doctor came to sign the papers that would declare, officially that she was dead. I guess my belief system allows for the idea that the spirit hangs around a bit after leaving the body, so just in case, I sat and held her hand, and talked to her about things. I read aloud a couple of Mary Oliver poems from a collection I’m reading.
I cried when I finally told her about my plans to buy an RV and go on the road. I hadn’t yet told her, because she would have been anxious, felt abandoned, and I know she would have been very fearful for me. I didn’t know how I was going to tell her before. But in this way, it was easy. She made her exit ahead of me.
Everyone from the residence who came in to offer condolences told me that mom had a great time at the New Year’s Eve party the night before. The nuns hire a DJ, and set up a dinner-dance for the residents and staff in their large gathering room. They have a special meal together, and a little champagne, and those who can, get up and dance.
First, I heard that mom was laughing at the nuns who were up on the dance floor. A lifetime ago in St Virgillius School, mom was taught and disciplined by stern teaching nuns. Ninety-three years later, the idea of nuns, dancing at a party was still pretty strange to her. But she was smiling and clapping her hands enthusiastically, when one of the nuns came over and grabbed mom’s wheelchair, and danced her out onto the dance floor, where they boogied and zoomed around for a while. Mom laughed and clapped in time to the music; a real party animal to the end.
Late in the afternoon, when the undertaker had been and gone, sister brought a gentleman over to the door of mom's room to show us a video from the party on his tablet, and there I saw that the stories I’d heard all day were truly not exaggerating. It seems that mom’s last night on this planet was quite joyful. Knowing that makes today a bit easier for me. Rest in peace, mom. Or perhaps I should say, party on.