In May 2017 I began finding daisies sprinkled throughout our property, daisies we did not plant. They were my mom’s favorite flower. I think she left them for me to remind me of the journey we took together, especially the lessons learned through her cancer and death. I’m sharing them now in the posts labeled “Daisy Chronicles.”
There were many people who touched our lives between the moments when my mother died and the following day. The people who filled up that space are some of my favorite angels. They planted seeds of love so strong they keep me rooted to this day in what matters – to love.
Long after my mom was gone these angels made me realize how precious each person’s work is and how the way we show up for others is important. Within each interaction is the opportunity to change another person’s experience of the world.
Our home health aid, Anna, was certainly at the top of the list.
Anna came to be with us “by mistake.” She is one of the many miracles that happened on this journey with my mother through death.
About three days in to hiring an aid to care for my mother, the agency told us they would need to send a substitute aid just for one night. We were a little frustrated because it had been tough getting my dad on board with having a stranger in the house.
Adding a second stranger to the mix wasn’t going to make it any easier. Anna was the new stranger.
We immediately fell in love with her, in part because she was kind and gentle, in part because she put my father at ease, which no others had been able to do.
We called the agency and asked if Anna could be permanently assigned to us. The agency didn’t think it was possible but they would check. Normally I’d say a prayer and request God’s help. I didn’t have room to pray for this. There are only so many things you can pray for when you are helping your mother die so I let it go. What would be would be.
Yet without prayers, the miracle of Anna happened and she was permanently assigned to our family and would stay with us through my mother’s passing. It wasn’t until after my mom had crossed that Anna told us she never did long term overnight work, which was why the agency didn’t believe they could place her with us.
But she said something told her she was supposed to be there.
The morning she called me to tell me my mother had passed, I was both shocked and grateful. I always thought I would know when my mom would be ready to cross over and I just didn’t think it was that night. But I was grateful that Anna was the one that was with her. Over the weeks that Anna had stayed with my mom, my mom in her usual fashion, had made space for Anna in her heart and was grateful for her help.
When I got to the house and had said my goodbyes, I asked Anna to tell me about what the end looked like. Anna shared my mom was at peace. Her passing was like a big sigh and then she was gone. Anna also told me that she did not wake my father right away when it happened. She explained that at end of life the body sometimes has “a relief” and she wanted to make sure my mother was clean and ready for my father when he came to say goodbye.
She washed my mother’s body, changed the sheets and then woke my father.
Anna’s kindness and love for us still has the power to reduce me to tears today, five years later. She had the option to just show up and do her job but she chose to elevate her work to sacred. She made her work holy.
She was not alone in the people that helped us get through the day.
The hospice case manager arrived about an hour after my mom passed. She was required to give the time of death and call the coroner to retrieve my mom’s body.
The only problem was that my brother had been at home in Boston when my mother died. We called him immediately but he was 3 hours away. He, more than anyone, needed to kiss my mother’s cheek to say goodbye. We told the hospice case manager this. We asked her if there anyway we could wait to call the coroner.
She said “well you know, there is a lot of paperwork to fill out and sometimes it does take me a while.” She then proceeded to turn the air conditioner up to high in my mother’s bedroom because it was summer. It never occurred to me that those rules to call he coroner immediately were in place for a legitimate reason (like to avoid the deterioration of my mother’s body in our presence.)
She never mentioned it.
She just made it work simply, gently and with grace. Another act of holiness amidst the pain.
My brother was able to kiss our mother goodbye.
There were other angels that day like I said … the coroner who did his job swiftly and without fanfare, the funeral director who looked on in what seemed like slight horror as my sister and I made jokes about death (we are Irish, its what we do), the friends that didn’t tell me it would be ok or “for the best,” the store clerk who smiled kindly at me… On and on the list goes.
Some of these angels touched my life that day because of their chosen careers. For some, I was simply passing in and out of their world on that particular day when my world felt like it was ending. Each showed me kindness and in that kindness I saw God.
Most of us will never fully understand the impact we have on others. You may even be left to feel on certain days like you don’t matter. I am here to tell you that you do.
You could be the smile that keeps someone from giving up.
You might create a memory in someone that they return to over and over again when the world feels hard or scary or unkind.
You could be the ray of light someone may desperately need in their darkness.
It is unlikely that you will ever truly understand the size of the ripples you’ve made in the world.
Do it anyway.
Shine your light.
Make your ripples.
Love and smile and be gentle with others even when its hard.
Because one of those people may have a heart so broken and raw that they can’t show you what your kindness means in that moment, but five years later when they are faced with the choice to be kind or selfish they will always lean to kindness. It will be because you planted a seed of love in them so strong its roots keep that person grounded in what truly matters in this world…
And if you need support to take that leap, to follow your heart, maybe it is time that we talk. I’d
love to support you if we are a good fit. You can apply for a strategy session here.