“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” ~Thomas Campbell

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” ~Mother Teresa

There are many things that most of us take for granted. The ability to get up each day, to go to work, or to school (or both!), to enjoy laughter and gaiety with our friends and family, to enjoy a good home cooked meal, to sit and read a book or listen to music and let a couple of hours slip away. Mostly, though, we take for granted the breaths that move through our bodies, the fact that we are here today and able to do these things. It is in rare moments that we pause and reflect on exactly what this gift is that has been bestowed upon each of us. It is something finite that none of us knows the duration of, and yet many of us live as if we have unlimited time.

These last few weeks have brought this sentiment to the forefront for me. Close family friends have been watching as mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother has slowly slipped away, until she passed peacefully yesterday afternoon. At 93 years old, she was a woman whom I have known since I was a kid, for some 25 years now. While she was not “family” by the traditional sense of the word, I loved her as if she were.

I have been fortunate in these last couple of months to spend a few hours with her a week, visiting and sharing a few laughs. My holidays this year were a bit brighter because I was able to spend Christmas Eve with her and her family along with my own. My New Years Eve was spent sitting and talking with her in front of a warm fire, eating pistachio cake and chocolate chip cookies, listening to Pavarotti (she played the part of conductor), and reminiscing about when she was a younger woman. I couldn’t have asked for a better evening.

That day, she also had a very frank, unsolicited, conversation with me about dying. She knew her time was limited, and I believe she was making her peace with people and saying her goodbyes. She told me she was curious as to what Heaven would be like, if there would be music, if her family would be there. She shared how appreciative she was that she was able to spend these last months at the home of her daughter and son-in-law, even if she had resisted in the beginning. I was unprepared for this conversation, and she ended up comforting me, which is so much like her. She was strong of heart, of opinion, of faith, and of love, right up until the end.

I hope beyond hope that she has been able to be reunited with her sisters and parents, dancing, and singing, and having a scotch and a smoke. I hope she is smiling down on her remaining family, comforting them with her presence and her love.

You are forever in our hearts, Mrs. Meade.

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” ~Thomas Campbell

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