Last week, my husband Bill and I lost a dear friend. Dorothy was our neighbor the last five years. She became part of our family and we feel like part of hers. Below she is in her kitchen, where we often visited and enjoyed time together.
The day after she passed, some of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all who we know and love, gathered at her home and included us. To be together, to share hugs and time and memories of their beloved patriarch. We were grateful to be able to console each other, finally, in this Covid world.
Her son showed me a note, with tears spilling from his eyes. He said, “Mom told me to look in the drawer of her desk when she left us, so I did.” Dorothy had left them a beautiful note, handwritten, titled, “Instructions for my funeral.”
Just like her, it was well written and to the point. Instructions like:
“Use your common sense”
“Don’t spend too much money on my funeral, it’s not necessary”
“Don’t have an open casket, so many people just don’t look that good”
Her sense of humor came through in the note, too. When instructing her children where she’d like memorials to go, she listed,
Immanuel Wee Care
Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery
“These are places I’ve volunteered over the years, (well, not the cemetery.)
And, she let them know one more time how much she loved them all. A precious keepsake from a faith-filled, gracious woman.
Dorothy was delightful to talk with, and conversation with her was always interesting. Not just because she was always up on current news and the latest trends - she was the only 95-year-old that I know that enjoyed texting. In talking about how interesting conversation with Dorothy was with to her granddaughter, Erin, it became crystal clear to me why. It was because Dorothy always asked you detailed, thoughtful questions, not just, “How are you?” but, “How is that book you are working on coming?” or, “Is your granddaughter feeling better?”
She’d remember something special to ask, and let you talk about yourself. Not about her, she was just interested in the person she was talking to, and that made you feel so special. A true gift, to be so in the moment.
She will be missed.
She didn’t suffer long. She was only in the hospital a day before she died. She died with loved ones around her. She drove and lived independently in her cozy cottage home right till the end. But the last year, this COVID year, was hard on her. Before the pandemic, she did so much – water aerobics, bible study, card club, her own shopping. She was social and enjoyed spending time with people. COVID changed all that, and her life became much more sedentary and isolated. No, Dorothy is not a COVID statistic, but it had a negative impact on her health, like it has for so many of us.
We are blessed that restrictions have lifted some, and many of us that loved her will be able to comfort the family.
For all of the families grieving a death during this difficult time, I hope we can take a final lesson from Dorothy and listen. Ask questions about how the person who is grieving is doing, and listen, let them talk about themselves and truly listen. Perhaps ask a question that may help them smile and remember a special moment.
I think Dorothy will be smiling down on us if we do.
Heartlinks Grief Center provides grief support to all ages, regardless of ability to pay. If you are grieving or know someone who could use assistance on their grief journey, please contact Heartlinks Grief Center at 618-277-1800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proceeds from the sale of my books are donated to help support Heartlinks Grief Center, a program of Family Hospice of Belleville, IL.
Heartlinks Grief Center volunteer and Family Hospice board member
“We Grow Stronger Together”