My Dear Margot:
Three years ago today, we said good-bye. I don't know that I've told too many people what happened that late morning; Father, of course, and a few others but mostly I've kept it to myself because it was such a poignant moment between the two of us. Surreal, too; but then again, the entire situation was totally incomprehensible to me, from the moment you told me of your diagnosis to that early pre-spring day you slipped away from me forever. Losing you was devastating to me, but in your parting, you gave me a gift that I can never thank you enough for.
Over the course of the months after your death, I came to realize my life was built on a foundation of sand. Anything, either positive or negative, had the potential to shake me to the core, a core I kept quite hidden from everyone, including myself. Somewhere in the middle of all of my thoughts and actions; my emotions and resulting behavior, was "the" question, "Why?"; followed in quick succession by "What now?" Practical as always, I initially distracted myself from dwelling overly much on these questions by doing what most folks do when someone close to them dies, all of it necessary and perhaps even a bit helpful to the grieving process.
Knowing your wishes, Father and I contacted all whom you wanted contacted, bequeathed all you wanted bequeathed and donated clothing and other items to organizations that we knew you'd approve of. We spent the weeks following your death getting things done; not overly surprising, given both of our personalities. During those days and nights, we had long conversations about you, sharing memories, stories and at times incredulity that this had happened to you and to us. True to your desires, we declined to place an obituary in the paper or hold any sort of service. I know this was difficult for some of your friends to understand, but they honored our decision. I found out later that your friends from your book club ended up holding their own service for you and I'm sure others did something similar. Father and I decided, after some amount of time had passed, to write a memorial, a story of your life and character, something that would honor your memory. It took us a while to get it done because we both wanted it to be "perfect"; in fact, it took well over a year but it was most certainly a labor of love with many others contributing to its compilation as well.
I began to tackle that project shortly after your passing. Mark and I were still living in North Carolina, although it was now clear that we'd be moving to Florida and plans were in place to make that happen. During the first eight months of our life in our new house in Florida, I worked on your book, picking the perfect pictures to go alongside the story of your life that Father and I were writing. Looking back, I know this was cathartic; in fact, I think I realized before I even began that it would be since I'd done something similar when I lost both Nigel and Clyde. Still, underlying the process that would led to a physical product, something was bothering me.
I thought at first what was bothering me was a combination of missing you and irritation at a few people for not providing sufficient care for my feelings. During that time there were, of course, people to offer me love and sympathy, but I'll admit I was surprised with the lack of care I received from some people. Thankfully, though, I was also bowled over with gratitude from care I received from unexpected sources, in some cases, people I didn't know very well at all. Throw in the stress of a move, selling a house, buying a house, and Mark starting our business, well, I suppose there's no shortage of reasons why I may have felt a bit wiggy at times. But what was truly bothering me was something I know most people feel when they lose someone, "What's the point?"
Then, for some incomprehensible reason, Mark and I decided to start attending our local Methodist Church. I know that you and I rarely spoke of God or religion, and I have to say, in addition to missing you in a thousand other ways, I wish so much that you were here to share in this new journey with me. Of course, I would have wished for you ultimately to come to believe in Jesus Christ, but it's even more base than that; I know you would have been fascinated and interested in the changes going on within me. Whether you agreed or not, you would have listened. I've said many times that you were always my biggest fan and champion. I know without a shadow of a doubt you would have cheered me on and supported me in all that I've come to believe and act upon in these past two and a half years.
That foundation of sand I spoke of earlier is being replaced by sturdier stuff. Fears, worries and my ever-present desire to control everything are fading away into longer and longer moments of peace, patience and trust. What some people don't get, but I think you would, is that this is more important than anything else because it frees me to go help someone else. Isn't that what it's all about in the long run? Love God. Love Each Other.
My decision to pursue being a Stephen Minister is a combination of who I am, who I've always been, plus all of the seeds that were planted along the way beginning from when you first told me of your diagnosis through the completion of my Disciple study when my fellow Disciples encouraged and supported me to pursue it as a direct acknowledgement of my spiritual gift of care giving. As I've been sitting here this morning reflecting on you and your life; on us and all that we shared together as stepmother, stepdaughter and friends, I realized that God truly does bring goodness out of every situation, even the most heartbreaking ones. I know you'd get that.
So, on this day three years ago, you were lingering. Everyone at Hospice was surprised that you were holding on. I'd been down in Sarasota visiting with Mom and Dad; Father was at home waiting for me to arrive. Before I left Sarasota, I'd called Hospice to talk with them; they told me you were resting comfortably but not coherent. As such, I didn't plan on stopping in until later, after I had the chance to get Father. Yet, as I drove by Hospice, a strong feeling came over me, an urge, to stop. When I walked in, the nurse seemed surprised to see me but led me into your room where you were indeed resting quietly. I thought I'd said my final good-byes to you two days earlier before I went down to Sarasota and yet, as they'd told us, you were lingering. I walked over to your bed and took your hand and told you all that was on my heart. I reminded you what your friend Heather had asked me to tell you, that she'd meet you in the garden when her time came. I promised to be there for Father. I assured you that we'd be alright and, as I kissed your forehead, I whispered to you that it was time for you to go. Saying good-bye was always hard for you, I know. As I wrote at the end of your book:
"Margot hated to say good-bye. Anyone who knew her well knows this. If someone was visiting and it came time for them to get in their car and leave, or, if she was the one doing the leaving, she'd have to choke back the tears. She wasn't even always able to be present when a person was leaving. In fact, it wasn't until much later in my adult life that she would be present when I left...as I came to understand her sadness, I made a point of leaving her a note to find after I left...Usually, it was simple, like, 'Thank you for everything! I'll see you again! I love you!' So, yes, good-byes were tough. It's tough for me now to finish this up because it is, in essence, like a final good-bye...If I know my Margot, she's up in Heaven figuring it all out...keeping busy while waiting for her loved ones to arrive...And so my dear Margot, until then. 'Thank you for everything! I'll see you again! I love you!'"
In the fifteen minutes it took me to drive from Hospice to the house, you left.
And everything changed.