I backed to the side of the room and sat in a chair alone so I could watch the crowd. Groups of two, three, four and more were clustered together. I smiled to see the gestures, laughs, hugs and excited talking. Mom was missing a fine party.
The first person to arrive was unknown to me -- or so I thought. I went over to introduce myself and she said "Hello, I'm Mrs. B, Ed's mother. I didn't know your mother. I saw the announcement in the newspaper and came to see you."
She is 91 years old and a hoot! At age 84 she had cataract surgery on both eyes so she could continue to drive, which she still does. She remembered things I had long forgotten from the days her son and I had been in the same classes in high school. She told me about her son and I gave her a card with my email address so he can contact me. We haven't seen or heard from one another since June of 1965. Thanks for coming, Mrs. B. You're an inspiration to me.
It was as I was sitting alone that I saw a group of five come in. I looked toward my sister and saw her stand and begin to cry from surprise and gratitude. The five visitors came for her. They were employees from the nursing home and had driven forty or fifty miles for her and for Mom.
The day was filled with surprises brought by family, neighbors, teachers and friends from more than 30 years ago.
I know death is supposed to be sad but I won't remember it this way. I'll remember this as a party and I'll remember the little involuntary laugh that I experienced on Tuesday. We were sitting around the bed watching and listening as each breath became more labored, more shallow and more infrequent. Someone said "she's gone" as my sisters cried quietly. It was then that her chest heaved and she took another and yet another audible breath and I laughed. Mom always was stubborn and pushed back when pressured. Even at the end, she was was going to decide when it was over.
Mom, thanks for the final laugh and for this party. I've added them to other good memories that you gave me.