The call came on New Year's Day. Mother had been admitted into hospice after struggling with metastasized lung cancer for six months. My sister and I arranged to stay with her, packed a few necessities and rushed to Fond du Lac as soon as we could.
When we arrived that evening, we were amazed at the warm and friendly environment of Hope. It felt comfortable and familiar, although I had never been there before. Mom was in a private room with a home-like feel and greeted us with a strained smile.
“I am so glad you are both here with me,” she said.
My sister and I bunked up in the room with her for the next few days. The staff were compassionate, understanding and helpful. One afternoon a volunteer brought in a huge harp and began playing softly for us. The music was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes, although it was not a melancholy melody.
Mother lost consciousness during the third day, and that was when we all started praying for the end to come mercifully soon. The days grew longer and many family members came and went, but still mother hung on.
On the fifth day, in the late afternoon, I was sitting beside Mother's bed reading aloud to her from a book called Tuesdays with Morrie. My feet were propped up on a folding chair, and it was to this chair that my attention was suddenly drawn, as if some intangible force was quietly whispering in my ear. I stopped reading in mid sentence and looked up. The skin on my arms began to tingle as I felt a presence hovering there; a barely visible shimmering glow. I immediately pulled my feet off the chair with a feeling of embarrassment like that of touching a stranger's hand in a crowded place.
I had never seen or felt anything like this before, but somehow I knew in my heart that this was a spirit sent to help my family in this difficult time. A sense of quiet peace washed over me as I realized that the spirit was my grandfather's, my mother's father, whom I had never in my life known as he had died before I was born. I smiled with the realization, and the apparition grew brighter and more visible. I could feel a warm and loving sensation surround me like a tight embrace after years of separation. Somehow I knew that Grandfather's spirit was smiling as well.
Suddenly I was overcome with emotion. Through my tears I pleaded silently with my grandfather to free my mother and take her spirit with him. I told him that she was waiting for him. Grandfather laughed, or at least I felt him laugh, and again I became calm and peaceful.
“I am waiting for her to be ready to leave,” Grandfather's spirit said.
A tear rolled down my cheek. I looked over at Mother, lying there at peace for the moment, and I knew this to be true, though I wondered what she was waiting for.
When I looked back, there was nothing. Just an empty chair. I could no longer feel my grandfather's presence, but I knew he must still be there somewhere. I looked around the rest of the room, as though he may have merely gotten up to stretch his invisible legs and get a cup of coffee.
My sister came in shortly after and asked me if everything was alright. I did not tell her about my experience. We talked briefly about what we thought Mother might be waiting for. Nearly all the family had already come to say goodbye.
My niece, Alison, who was almost three years old had been to Hope with us, but had not been in to see her grandmother for fear of upsetting the young child. On the morning of the seventh day, my sister and her husband gave Alison a telephone and dialed the number to my mother's room. I held the receiver to Mom's ear while Alison's parents encouraged her to say hello to Grandma. Instead, Alison sang her favorite song with gusto.
“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, Gramma Marge; Happy birthday to you!”
Mother passed away moments after receiving this call. She had been waiting to hear the sweet voice of her only grandchild.
In loving memory of Margaret Meta Kirsch-Farley. December 3, 1947 – January 7, 2006