Because of my mother and her wisdom, I have no fear of death. She was my best friend and my greatest teacher. Every time we parted company, whether it was to retire for the evening or before one of us was about to depart on a trip, she would say, “I’ll see you in the morning.” It was a promise she always kept.
My grandfather was a minister, and in those days, around the turn of the century, whenever a member of the congregation passed on, the body would lie in state in the minister’s parlor. To an eight-year-old girl, this can be a most frightening experience.
One day, my grandfather picked up my mother, carried her to the parlor and asked her to feel the wall.
“What does that feel like, Bobbie?” he asked.
“Well, it’s hard, and it’s cold,” she replied.
Then he carried her over to the casket and said, “Bobbie, I’m going to ask you to do the most difficult thing I’ll ever ask. But if you do it, you’ll never be afraid of death again. I want you to put your hand on Mr. Smith’s face.”
Because she loved and trusted him so much, she was able to fulfill his request. “Well?” asked my grandfather.
“Daddy,” she said, “it feels like the wall.”
“That’s right,” he said. “This is his old house, and our friend, Mr. Smith, has moved on. Bobbie, there’s no reason to be afraid of an old house.”
The lesson took root and grew the rest of her life. She had absolutely no fear of death. Eight hours before she left us, she made a most unusual request. As we stood around her bed fighting back tears, she said, “Don’t bring any flowers to my grave because I won’t be there. When I get rid of this body, I’m flying to Europe. Your father would never take me.” The room erupted with laughter, and there were no more tears the rest of the night.
As we kissed her and bade her goodnight, she smiled and said, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
However, at 6:15 AM the next day, I received the call from the doctor that she had quietly departed on her flight to Europe.
Two days later, we were in my parent’s apartment going through my mother’s things when we came across a huge file of her writings. As I opened the packet, one piece of paper fell to the floor.
It was the following poem. I don’t know if it was one she had written or if it was someone else’s work that she had lovingly saved. All I know is that it was the only piece of paper to fall. It read:
When I die, give what is left of me to children.
If you need to cry, cry for your brothers walking beside you.
Put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give to me.
I want to leave you with something, something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I have known and loved.
And if you cannot live without me, then let me
live on in your eyes, your mind, and your acts of kindness.
You can love me most by letting hands touch hands and letting go of children that need to be free.
Love does not die, people do.
So when all that is left of me is love…
Give me away…
My Dad and I smiled at each other as we felt her presence. It was morning once again.
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