The Long Goodbye

My friend Jim’s mother was diagnosed with cancer this spring and at 85 years old she made a decision not to fight the cancer this time (she had fought cancer before). So the family did as she asked and then proceeded to do the other important things, make extra trips to New Jersey to see her, send out the call for cards to be sent and prayers to be requested. People responded to the call. Last fall when my Pa died Jim’s mom sent me a lovely card that touched my heart and made me cry all over again, I still have it – so when the call went out I participated in the card sending just little notes to keep her spirits up.

My friend Jim, who I work with every day didn’t or couldn’t really talk about that with me in the office. I got the information I needed (what to tell friends and clients when the time came, what charities and so forth) from his daughter Lisa, a nurse who works in the hospice industry. Lisa received regular updates from the hospice nurse that came to the house and about three and a half weeks ago she made the decision to go up to NJ (from Nashville) full time. I know that Jim appreciated knowing she was there and he got regular updates. As her journey approached Jim and his wife, Ana, headed up to be with is mother during her last days – they were there for over a week with only a brief return to their home down here for more clothes.

On Friday of last week Dorothy, Dot, or Mom-Mom as she was called, finally left our plane of existence for the kingdom of heaven. Jim and his family planned for the wake and funeral to be on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Dorothy had specific requests that I believe were followed to the letter.

My friend Vera and I drove up on Wednesday afternoon and arrived with enough time to spend a few minutes at the family home before heading to the funeral home for the week. There were some last minute items to be taken care of and Lisa was at the church practicing songs for the service the next day.

There are four children at the moment in the family, all of them great grandchildren to Dorothy. They brought so much life to this event – dancing, laughing, signing. Many a sad tear was turned into a laugh or at least a smile by their antics. I’m glad they were there.

Jim put up a strong front, but you could see the sadness in his eyes that just stayed there. He knew that his family and friends were all around him, but it’s a hard thing to go through. I remember last fall when Pa died and that nothing really made the pain any easier, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I know he’ll get through this, but I also know it’ll be tough.

The service the next day was at the Catholic Church. Lisa sang powerful songs and was just amazing. David and Jim both gave eulogies and both choked up a bit. The priest had powerful words to say. I saw tears in the eyes of many people around me and felt them run freely down my face. We had the funeral procession to the cemetery where Mark had a nice eulogy as well. Dorothy was buried next to her husband James.

I can’t express in words how beautiful Lisa sang, nor the pain and loss in Jim’s eyes. But I was honored to be there and witness the love they shared for one another, the loss they all felt and the beauty of how they said goodbye.

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