In hospice, at the close of her life here, my mother told me repeatedly that she was not afraid to die. That said, she was in no hurry to do so either.
A year and a half earlier, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. There was one iffy treatment—was the 89-year-old open to losing a few organs? To our relief, she uttered a definitive “No way!” Aside from one week of small doses of radiation, she was free to live out her last year without medical intervention. And what a year it turned out to be!
I picked up the tab for a magical repeat-visit to Santa Fe, also having traveled there with her and daughter Liv to celebrate her 75th birthday. She savored great-grandson Ryder’s basketball games; summer baseball, too. Enjoyed a couple of week-long visits in Cincinnati with son Ken and family. A bunch of Texas cousins came up before Christmas to shower her with love. She celebrated a visit to Sarasota with my brother.
On her 90th, she thrust one foot into the air and joked, “Well, I’m still kickin’!” Why would anyone in her shoes be in any hurry to move on?
The cancer, along with dementia, prompted a transition to my home where a hospice nurse visited weekly for a year. When my mom finally required round-the-clock pain management, this sleep-deprived caregiver worried about middle-of-the-night mishaps, mistaken dosages. My three-story house presented challenges for last-stage care, too. Estimating a week, maybe two, of earthly life left, the nurse suggested residential hospice. Vi gave it a thumbs-up.
Once there, Vi rallied, becoming the de facto hostess of the place. She befriended each hospice patient who came and “went”. Staff asked for her beauty secrets. Just shy of forty days of residency, and now in a semi-conscious state, she was still taking her sweet time. That’s when a crowd of “deceased” relatives showed up. It wasn’t their first appearance.
Years before, intrigued by my reading with a medium, she requested one of her own.My dad was first to communicate, both his love for her and real concern about her recent use of a step ladder—a fall and a steep decline the certain result if she did so again, he forewarned her. We didn’t know she’d teetered on one a few days before; my dad, however, was well aware of the incident. She had a number of years left before they’d be reunited, he told her; she lived another eight. To the medium’s surprise, during this exchange, a lively group came through, ready to party.
Holding balloons, they stood in front of a table with a big spread of food. Brothers and sisters, her mother and father, cousins—all eager for a word with her. Her father confessed he was sorry he hadn’t paid her enough attention when she was young. Fun-loving Harry, the brother killed in World War II who had swung her up in the air when she was a girl as they danced at the Swedish hall, delighted in teasing his “little sister” again. With a mixture of delight and awe, she reconnected with each of the beloveds.
And here they all were again, in her hospice room. This time it was Liv—making her living now connecting with Spirit—who heard and saw the loved ones, plain as day. All of them were conscious of Vi’s reluctance to move on—a resistance that’s not uncommon.
Tyler Henry—the clairvoyant 20-year-old who gives readings to celebrities on the E! network’s “The Hollywood Medium”—addresses this in his bestselling book, “Between Two Worlds”: “Just as we all have varying degrees of self-awareness in life, everyone’s individual passing is tied to his [or her] capability and willingness to let go of earthly attachments and ego.”
He compares “the nudging to move along” to birth contractions; adds that those whose “transitions may be more of a process” might need assistance from other spirits and guides. He assures the reader that those who go through more laborious transitions never do it alone.
At first, Liv thought it was only Peter, then my dad showing up—each expressing gratitude for our care of my mother. Liv happened to sneeze and said, “Thanks for that, Dad!”—alluding to the allergies he’d passed on to her.
“I could have given you psoriasis!” Pete quipped.
This was when Liv noticed the crowd of relatives just behind us. In the semi-dark, via rapid-fire narration, she related who said what, which I recorded in my journal shortly after. Various members’ sense of humor obviously intact, the whole family was present to encourage my mother to cross over.
Moving over to stand at the foot of the bed, my dad joked that he’d polished his shoes so well he could see his reflection. In fact, everyone but Uncle George was all dressed up.
“Why are you still in the blue jumpsuit you always used to wear?” Liv asked him.
“I tried wearing a silver one,” he said, “but kept getting mistaken for Elvis.”
“Mom’s saying goodbye to Spaceship Earth…” I murmured—the comment prompting an immediate protest from the group. Her sister Helen gave a little speech challenging any notion that separation from the living is a “thing.” Wearing tap shoes, the aunt who had owned dance studios in Chicago closed with, “Now I’m dancing with the stars!” Could she be referring to the TV show of that name? Stars in the firmament? She didn’t say—her point being that “life” continues, and beyond physical limitations.
“Let’s get this show on the road,” said George, followed by a gentle scold from Auntie Bertie. Mom’s sister, Rose, noted with delight that my mother had on the same color and style of pajamas she’d worn at their weekend “senior” slumber parties.
Addressing me, she brought up a private conversation we’d had years back, when she’d confided her worries about what the future might hold for her beloved little granddaughter Laurie (who is deaf). She marveled now at how unwarranted her concerns had been, how wonderful it was that “Laurie has made her own life, after all.” Rose showed Liv an image of herself kissing her great-granddaughter Savannah’s forehead.
Had Uncle Bill, a Scotsman, ever played bagpipes, Liv asked me, perplexed that she could hear a bagpipe playing in the background.
“No,” my dad interjected. “We’re just pulling out all the stops to get her over here!”
All this, and much more, was not lost on my mother. Her eyes barely open, she listened with a radiant smile.
A knock on the door interrupted the reunion—a staff member offering to do Reiki energy work. Sometimes, she told us, the technique helps those not letting go to finally move on. And 48 hours later, my mother did, on the last note of “Abide with Me,” playing nearby. Hers was a peaceful passing, richer for the recent assurances of the continuing energy, love, and involvement of those who’ve gone before–not to the grave or to an afterlife, but to new life. And not so very far away.
Every transition—birth or death—is unique. And this visit with our family—outgoing and close knit in earthly life—was one of numerous previous communications. Both Liv and I are open to and relaxed about them. Often, the communications are profound, private ones only for the person in transition. The purpose of this sharing is to give a sense of how plugged in loved ones remain and, whether seen or unseen, how committed, too, to being part of “the welcome committee.”