Bessie Lois made it to 97 years and four months.
She is my mother.
On Friday, at her assisted living home’s fall festival, Mom could not get enough of the “fishing game,” and requested a prize from the director for catching so many. When told that the prizes were “snack treats,” she said, “That’s it? Look at all the fish I caught! I deserve a good prize. You should do better next time!” Then Mom started laughing and couldn’t stop. After a moment of surprise at being scolded, the director laughed too. I’m certain that Mom kept giggling to herself for a good long while afterward, at the thought of the Director’s face when she demanded a prize.
Laughter is majorly good medicine.
On Sunday, they had a big balloon bouncing game in the large, sunny television room. The residents of the memory care area took much delight in sending the oversized balloon into the air for the next person to lift up. There was laughter and cheering and competition.
It used to be that Mom would avoid such social activities, but since she had basically come back from the edge of death six weeks ago, her overall mood had lightened. She felt strong again and had a new outlook. She refocused on her last bucket list item—to have her picture featured on the Knott’s Berry Farm “moment” on television when she reached her 100th birthday.
Cheating death at 97 made anything seem possible.
She let the young caregivers put make up on her and braid her hair. She was truly enjoying herself and the company of new friends who sat by her bedside when her life was so frail that all she could do was sleep.
She joyfully mastered her sporty new wheelchair with the enthusiasm of a child on a new ride-on toy.
Sunday was a free-wheeling, happy, and social day. She may even have flirted with a 73-year-old man who likes to tell stories. Mom can’t hear a word of what he says, but beams from ear-to-ear like a schoolgirl when he talks.
At 3:30 a.m. on Monday, Mom was checked on and was sleeping peacefully. Nothing out of the ordinary. By the next check at 6:15 a.m., Mom’s breathing had slowed dramatically. She was not struggling, but instead appeared completely relaxed. The hospice nurse was called to check on her, and I was also called.
They said that Mom crossed over quickly, with a peaceful and relaxed look on her face, even a slight smile. She was not in pain and not afraid. She was in her own bed, wearing her favorite fleece pajamas.
The natural process of dying was not intervened with, but simply attended with love.
Bessie was then dressed all in pink by her heartbroken caregivers, and her soft gray hair combed, ready for the trip to the funeral home.
Mom had long ago taken care of her own arrangements, so when I met with the funeral director on Tuesday morning, the final details were easy. (Thank you, Mom.) He too commented on Mom’s peaceful appearance: “I see many faces that look regular and some that look pained. Bessie looked peaceful and contented.” This made me smile.
If only she could tell me what funny or delightful thing had crossed her mind while she was crossing over!
The end of life can sometimes be as natural and beautiful as the beginning of life.
It gladdens me that she checked out of this dimension with a relaxed Mona Lisa smile on her face. I cannot imagine a better way to leave this life.