Peonies in Heaven
Actually, screw it, I'll just cut and paste, and you can go to the link if you want to check out the tons of comments.
THE BIOLOGY OF HEAVEN
Anne , who is very much a Mom to me , is in a strange limbo .
She is a retired chemistry teacher , science nut , eco warrior , wife , mother , and the best grammy ever to don an apron . Besides being a round hug-o-matic in cashmere , besides being a patient and wise listener slash problem solver slash boo boo healer , and besides having the most god given touch when baking the heck out of any delectable doo dad you could ever possibly crave ... she is also a walking library of immeasurable knowledge . With laser point accuracy , she can answer any crazy question that comes giggling out of her grandchildren . Any bug , rock , mushroom , castle , leaf , mineral , element , paw print and , most especially , any flower , can be not only named , but explained in scientific and fun anecdotal yarns .
She has a mind tightly and neatly packed with endless facts and time tested tangibles .
Anne is a Mom , first and foremost , so when pancreatic cancer started to get the best of her , her main concern was for her family . "I need to know you all have someone to love you , and you all take care of each other . It's important ." We have all assured her repeatedly that we're fine , vowing to be there for each other . She did a bang up job with us all , taught us how to love , how to listen .... and though we may never nail her gingerbread recipe .... we will for sure keep trying .
She started slipping recently , and when she could talk , she told us she was scared . "What if everything we believe that's ... next ... isn't true ?"
I don't know any human with a thought in their head who isn't at least a little afraid of dying and leaving this well known life behind . Whatever your faith or belief in what lies ahead for us all ... you'd be hard pressed to convince me otherwise .
We've been doing our best to comfort her and assure her that all is well and when she is ready to let go , all will still be well . But how do you explain the biology of Heaven to a scientist ?
Then she saw the flowers .
Her room is filled with flowers . Some from friends , students ... and some picked from her crazy garden in the back of the house . I was rubbing her back one evening , she was on her side facing the wall . "Flowers" .
"What flowers , Ma ?"
"Big, pink flowers ."
I looked around the room and saw a new bouquet on the window sill . A bunch of pink peonies in a pale green vase .
"You want to see your new flowers ? I'll get them ." I fetched the vase and held it up near her face . "These ?"
"Which ones ?"
"I'm looking at them . Beautiful , pink flowers ."
She was not looking at the peonies .
Her eyes were closed .
"...Oh .... what kind of flowers Ma ?"
"Don't know ... never seen em' before . Beautiful ."
I called her son in law , Bill , into the room . Bill , being the most faithful church goer out of all of us , had been the biggest comfort to Anne with his faith and confidence in God . I told him what she was seeing. He took her hand. " Anne , is it a beautiful garden ?"
"Do you want to walk through the garden?"
"What are you afraid of ?"
"Don't know. "
"Someone will have to name those flowers , what would you call them ?"
She's been hanging on with all ten fingers and toes even with her body failing , unimaginable pain and strong narcotics being pumped into her every other hour.
Sleeping mostly , barely able to speak , it is a heartbreaking fight . We all simultaneously want her to let go , be at peace ... then feel an awkward shame at wishing death to take her .
Her daughter , Daphne , is my oldest friend on the planet . This awful waiting and the near catatonic state her mother is in now hurts her in ways I can only imagine . The last time Anne could speak , she spoke to Daphne .
We were all around the bed , Daphne , me , Don , Anne's husband of 55 years , and her oldest daughter Molly . Anne had been trying to write something for 45 minutes on a yellow pad . She held the pencil perfectly and stared at her hand but couldn't get her body to cooperate . We quietly waited . She finally pushed the pad away with a frustrated sigh . Daphne asked , "Mom .... would you like me to write it for you ?"
"I have to ..... get a message ..." She was so weak , her voice was a strained and exhausted whisper .
"I'll write it for you ... who's the message for ?"
"OK ... what's the message ?" Daphne took the pad and pencil .
"Tell her ... to make the scones the way she used to ... "
"I would like them to be hot when I get there ."
Later that night Daphne and I stood by her grandmothers grave , relaying the message , word for word .
Anne never really spoke again . There were momentary flutters of recognition , her hand would hold yours or it would move on its own picking an invisible something out of thin air and holding it close to her face . But mostly she slept.
There have been countless magical and wonderful moments punctuating the overall horrible specter of death approaching . Death is as real as sound and light , as birth and laughter ... but , like these things , there is ethereal in the real . Magic in the machinery . We , the living , looked on her dying with a sick empathy . A painful urge to look away , to stay separate . Everything in us is hard wired to stay alive , and when someone close is clearly dying , we feel their sad struggle . We rage and despair at their losing the fight ... it's natural to want to hide from it . But in staying and touching , sadly but boldly looking on , we were blessed with tiny glimpses through the veil between the here and the who knows where . These slips of after that snuck through , though strange , were comforting . We knew she was headed somewhere beautiful , if not familiar . We knew she would see her loved ones who passed .. , and , very possibly , get to enjoy some buttery baked goods .
Anne Dando Leavitt finally passed away Monday night , August 18th at 11:38PM in her home surrounded by her family .
To honor her memory , the family has asked folks to please donate to Anne's favorite charities . One is for her 7 year grand daughter who suffers from a kidney disease called PKD , the other is a small farm in Southborough , Massachusetts that is home to these fluffy , Belted Galloways , (nicknamed Oreo cows) . In recent years , Anne made it her personal mission to keep the tiny cow farm in business .
For donations to her grand daughters PKD fund, click below :
Steppin for Stephie
For donations to the Oreo Cows, click the link below :
Breakneck Hill Cow Fund
" Please make sure to love and take care of each other . It's important ."
- Anne Leavitt
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