Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. Mother Teresa

Mom died on January 27, 2024, and was born on November 21, 1924. My youngest sister, Mom’s niece from California, and I were with her as she took her last breath. My sister looked at me, “It was supposed to be beautiful, and it wasn’t beautiful.”

“It wasn’t horrible,” I replied. Somewhere between beautiful and not horrible is an okay death. Some deaths come too soon, some seem to take forever, and some seem, just right.

Mom only wanted two things, one was to have all her children together, we were planning it for her hundredth birthday, but it happened the Wednesday before her death with all of us present except one brother and he was on speaker phone playing recordings of her brother and Dad playing instruments and singing. We couldn’t have had the recordings play if he’d been there in person, the sound quality was questionable, but it brought us back to happy times.

Mom hugged and acknowledged everyone, and earlier we’d thought our three sisters and brother coming from the airport might not make it. We called and told them, “Do not stop, come straight,” and they did.

I marvel still that we all realized and heeded that realization, it was now or never to see Mom one more time and be with each other. Regrets often happen when we don’t do the thing we know to do, we could have thought we’ll get things in order and come the next week, but it would have been too late. Mom didn’t want a funeral if you didn’t see her when she was alive she didn’t see why you would move heaven and earth to go to her funeral.

The other thing Mom wanted was to stay in her own home, and she got that too. Home care came in the last few days before she died and the first night she thought they came to take her to the hospital or a nursing home. “Don’t let them take me,” we think we heard.

“They are here to help you stay in your home,” we told her, but the next morning she had her feet out of the bed as if she wanted to prove she didn’t need to go to a hospital or a home.  We reassured her again and it seemed okay.

Palliative Care gave us a form for an, ‘Expected Death in the Home” so we didn’t need the ambulance, police, and coroner. There were no uncomfortable questions to answer because it was an expected death.

To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people, and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success. Ralph Waldo Emerson

To live a good long happy and productive life, with a reasonable death, and no or few regrets is a reasonable goal. There are a few things I think Mom did that gave her a long healthy life, free of disease until the end. When she had a problem she tried to figure out what caused it, and quit doing what caused it. She walked until the end, and my brother swears quilting added ten years to her life, and I believe him. She lived alone, but wasn’t lonely, until close to the end when what had kept her busy was beyond her.

Mom left her mark with her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. In the next couple of days, a new great-grandson will be born. The circle of life continues, and we are somewhere in that circle. If we make the most of what we have, our time, talents, and contributions then we too can close our eyes for the last time with no or few regrets whenever that time comes.

We must hoist up the load that is ours to bear and do it with good cheer, perseverance, and gratitude because even though we know it could be better, we also know it could be worse. One of the things we can always do is make our life worse, we might not always be able to make it better but often there are small things we can do to make things better for ourselves and someone else.

We don’t know how much someone needs a smile or a bit of cheerful conversation, how that little act, so small and insignificant might help a hurting soul. It might be the only interaction they get all day, and it might make a difference.

We think it is big things that lead to a good life, but more and more I think the small, seemingly insignificant things that add onto each other are what create the good life, and it is why a good life is within the reach of all of us.

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. Mae West

To live a good life: We have the potential for it. If we can learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference. Marcus Aurelius

The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination. Carl Rogers

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