The night before my mother died I asked her if she would give me a sign that she was okay if she ended up dying before me. I knew she was near death, although tomorrow is the day was certainly not on my emotional agenda. Sick, not eating, and weak she had told me two days earlier that she would be dead within three days. “You’ve had me long enough,” she said, as I tearfully tried to persuade her that we needed to get her to the doctor.
I have trouble letting go. Years ago I kept my 16-year-old dog Nonnie alive, blind and incontinent, until even I realized that she had no quality of life. I did better with Raisin, my 15-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, although for two years I gave him fluids every other day for a failing kidney. But at least I was able to see somewhat earlier that he was miserable there at the end. My friend Ginny told me over the phone, “Dogs have no plan for times like this. They’ve got to trust you to have the plan.”
It seemed at the hospital that maybe my mother had her own plan. She’d been taken there by ambulance early that morning, barely able to breathe. Congestive heart failure and pneumonia put her immediately into intensive care. When I asked her that night if she’d give me a sign, she replied: “I don’t know if they let you do that.”
“Well if they do, would you please do it?”
“Okay, what would you like?”
“I’d like a flock of geese flying across a full moon,” I said, envisioning myself mourning her while sitting outside on a hillside one night watching the moon. Then a flock of geese would fly across it, and I would immediately know that all was well.
The next morning at 6:30 a.m., she was gone. By 10:30, we were at the funeral home to make arrangements. Part of this was choosing an urn, since she had wanted to be cremated. In a daze, I walked upstairs with my brother and sister to the room where they kept the urns. We walked into a room full of the most ornate (and ugly) metal urns that money could buy. When I turned my attention to the urns displayed on the right side of the room, I gasped. There, right in the middle of all the metal urns, was a hand carved wooden box. On it was a country scene, with an old fence meandering down a dirt road. And above the road, a flock of geese flying across a full moon.
The next fall, on a moonlit night, my family and I were sitting around a campfire on our property when the real deal happened. The reactions weren’t quite as like those of the folks who saw the face of Jesus on a piece of pizza, but it was pretty darn close. Every one of us believed that despite missing such a wonderful woman, all was well.
And now I chase geese for a living. Go figure. My dogs and I never catch them, we just let them go. Let them go. Let them go.
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