September 26 – Never More Than a Thought Away

by Sharon Lippincott

I sprint through the house, finding the wireless handset on the third ring.

“Hello,” I answer, trying not to sound breathless. There is no response, yet I sense someone there. I tense, flooded with apprehension.

“Your mama died a few minutes ago.” Daddy’s voice breaks.

“Oh…” I pause, choosing words carefully. I’ve waited over two years for this call, rehearsing it mentally a thousand times, but the reality deals a staggering blow.

“Well, how are you?” I finally ask.

“I’m okay. A little unsteady, but, I’m okay.” He pauses. “You’ll tell your kids?”

“Yes. I’ll call them.”

“I’ll talk to you later.” His voice quavers again.

“Okay,” I answer, a little shaky myself. “I love you.”

I take a deep breath. So this is it. Mother is finally gone in the ultimate sense. She is no longer bent, shriveled, and imprisoned in that unresponsive shell. She is free. Even knowing this bright side, I convulse in a sob. My voice breaks as I tell my husband, “It’s over. We’re done.”

“What? What’s over?”

“Mother just died.” He wordlessly pulls me into his arms holds me close. I sink into his shoulder, soaking his shirt with tears.

“I’ve got to call the kids,” I finally say, pulling away, my voice a little steadier.

They’re all out of their offices, so I leave messages to call, then dial my brother, not realizing he’s in Russia.

His wife tells me that she went to the LifeCare Center with Daddy to help take care of things. “I talked to the aide who was with her when she died. She told me that when she went to wheel your mom into the lunch room, she looked more animated than usual. She looked aware for a change, looking around. She seemed interested in eating for the first time in months and ate a few bites. Then, suddenly she looked up toward the ceiling, and her face lit up with the most radiant smile. She lifted both hands, and … just …left!”

More tears flow down my face as I listen. Mother has not been able to lift her right hand for a couple of years, and we can’t remember what she looked like with a smile on her face.

This is the most beautiful exit scenario I could imagine for her. It is profoundly reassuring. I am grateful beyond words that this aide was able to witness her transformation and eager to pass the story along to us. What an incredible gift Mother gave us, selecting a time when no family members were there, so nobody could feel left out, and arranging to let us know that it was okay, that she left in a cloud of joy.

My grief fades to relief. I suddenly feel her presence and joy and realize that she’ll never be more than a thought away.

Sharon Lippincott lives in a cottage in the woods near Pittsburgh where she teaches lifestory writing and other fun writing classes. She is the author of THE HEART AND CRAFT OF LIFESTORY WRITING along with piles of blog posts and shorter works. Sharon’s mother died on September 26, 2000.

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8 responses to “September 26 – Never More Than a Thought Away

  1. What a wonderful rememberance of your Mother’s transition. I am sure she is only a thought away…it reminded me so much of my Mother’s leaving.
    I hope you can celebrate this day by doing things that bring you joy and peace.

    Best,
    Nancilynn

  2. Your story brought tears to my eyes. What a great gift your mother left for her loved ones before departing.. Life is such a miracle in that it gives us joy at the same time it gives us sadness. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Your story brought tears to my eyes as well. It is so beautiful and was such a gift to each of you.

  4. I remember getting a similar call from my dad and even though it’s been nearly twenty years ago since that call, your story brought it back to me almost as fresh as it was then. Like your recounting, it was, and is, both a sad and a joyful relief. Sam

  5. That’s the call I got from my mother when my father died. I was living halfway across the country so I couldn’t be there. But fortunately, when my mom died in 2003, I was lucky enough to be sitting with her, holding her hand when she left. I consider myself blessed to have experienced that. I found your story incredibly moving, it brought back so many memories. Thank you for this gift today. Mo

  6. What an amazing account! Of course, it made me cry even before I finished reading it. Do you wonder what she experienced those last few moments? Some people do have a limited capacity to choose the time of their death. My father also “chose” the time most appropriate for him– a Sunday afternoon when the whole family could assemble around his bed, and no one had to take off work.

  7. Oh Sharon, thanks for this! I was not with my Mother when she died but will choose to believe it was like you described for your mom. By the way, her picture is gorgeous! I can definitely see the family resemblance!

  8. What a beautiful story, Sharon. Brings to mind my brother’s call when my mother’s limbo was finally ended and the last time I’d seen her, nearly a year before. When I left that last time, she was able to pick me out across some 25-30′ and wave with a smile in her eyes despite deteriorated vision. She was saying goodbye, something she was no longer capable of expressing verbally and something she couldn’t normally do emotionally. It’s said people often have a resurgence prior to death – sounds like your mother’s was beautiful and joyful. What a blessing!

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