Monday, April 23, 2012 — Today the dogwood tree outside my window blossoms, a mantle of white sheltering its branches. White tulips in our front flower bed raise their angel bells to heaven, the irises don their purple scarves, and the rose bushes lift hundreds of yellow buds like candles to the sun. Emma is gone. In her physical form she will not see these, some of her favorite things. We rejoice that she is released from her long suffering.
She passed peacefully Wednesday afternoon, April 11. Her Hospice nurse, Hospice chaplain and I stood by her side. Moments before Emma passed, our Hospice chaplain touched the center of Emma’s forehead with frankincense and myrrh oil that she had brought from Israel. I touched her shoulder and laid my hand upon hers. Our loving thoughts were of comfort and peace, to ease her along her way, to let her know she is OK, to offer her clear choice of passage to her next journey, next lifetime. She is aware that she is out of her body now, I am told by a spiritual teacher friend, and in a strange new place, like a dream state, which may make her feel a bit uncomfortable. My friend said that when our consciousness enters this new place we are given choices as to where to go next; we tend to gravitate toward the familiar. Meanwhile, too, she has been here with us, her family.
After her passing I sensed Emma’s presence here in our house in Delaware as have my brother and my daughter down in North Carolina. My daughter, Kellie, having fallen asleep beside my younger granddaughter, awakened around three in the morning to see a white light, an orb, dance in a partial figure eight in the room and then vanish. Then their chihuahua, in my older granddaughter’s bedroom, barked briefly. The next morning, in their car on their way to the school bus, my younger granddaughter, 8, sitting next to Kellie, looked behind her, then turning to Kellie, said, “Mom … who’s that woman sitting in the back seat?” When she turned to look back again, the woman was gone. “She looked like Grandmom,” said my granddaughter. “She was dressed in blue.”
The burial outfit I chose for Emma is blue. My granddaughter did not know of my choice.
Friends phone, send notes, and stop by bringing food. I serve the food using Emma’s plates and utensils. All of the things here in this house are hers, things that meant so much to her, the furniture, the service she thoughtfully chose and delighted in displaying to entertain her guests at luncheons and dinner parties. Ever the lady, she was sweet, charming and smiling.
Emma’s memorial service was composed more of music than speaking. It was what I wanted; I think she would have, too. Two of our friends and our Hospice chaplain spoke. The messages were uncannily appropriate to our family, about things the speakers could not have known; they were to the point, filled with wisdom and love. A friend played his guitar, sang two songs and offered a brief prayer; then our Hospice music therapist played her guitar: She sang a song cycle we had chosen together – Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” changing the words to suit mother and daughter; Willie Nelson’s “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground;” and Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” To conclude the service she returned and sang the Gounod “Ave Maria” transitioning into the Schubert.
Our healthcare aide Daphne put together a beautiful DVD documentary from photos of Emma’s life, and we displayed some of her watercolors. The butterfly was the theme of the service as it appeared to be the theme of Emma’s life. She had images of butterflies everywhere, on her clothes, around the house, and created one in watercolor. It didn’t surprise Kellie, my brother Bob and me, therefore, that each of us sensed her absence at the service. In fact, as I greeted guests before the service, it took me a while to realize that the casket was there in the room with us, at the front of the funeral home chapel, and that a beautiful spray of flowers, dotted with a few yellow roses, as I had requested – her favorite flower – draped it: “She’s not here,” I thought. “She’s just not here.” And, so, like a butterfly, she had flitted among each of us in her family, the flowers of her life – her children and her grandchildren – to see what we were up to and to make sure we were all right and then gone on her way, true to her character.
Emma’s burial service in the cemetery on the hill overlooking the city and rows of roofs and chimneys of surrounding boroughs was tender on a warm, sunny spring day and brought her body to rest, with her family, just blocks from where she had grown up in West Philadelphia. I will continue writing here of Emma’s and my journey together and of other thoughts and adventures.
Meanwhile, Emma, safe travels. May you, my mother in this lifetime, journey in peace and love.