Last Tuesday, after a long day at Beekse Bergen, we deep into an epic Magic (the Gathering) battle in our rented bungalow just outside of Den Bosch, when my phone rang.  I didn’t have to answer to know it was my mom.  I didn’t have to answer to know my Tante Lia had passed away, but I answered anyway.

My aunt had finally passed after a 17+  year struggle with breast cancer.  She had exceeded doctors expectations, and then some.  The last couple of weeks, with her sisters and sons by her side, she still kept fighting.  There was so much of life she still wanted to live. Lia was only 60.

I answered my phone and quietly cried with my mother.  Then I hugged Dave, and my kids, grabbed my car keys and drove to the Lia’s hospice for a last goodbye. My cousins met me at the door, and I joined them for a late-night cup of coffee and memories.  My mother, and her sister Kitty, were with Lia.

Soon the night nurse appeared and asked if I would come in.  I didn’t want to go, but I was there for my mother and she was asking for me.  With a pounding heart, heavy feet and tears in my eyes I went.  I am so thankful I went.

Lia was at peace.  The words seem empty here on black  & white, but in that room, last Tuesday night, she was so peaceful.  The lights were low, her body still warm, soft and here.  My mom, tante Kitty and her nurse were gently caring for her, talking to her, a final preparation for her last voyage.

They gave her a bath, dressed her in her favorite suit, lined a beautiful soft rose, made sure all the buttons were straight and perfect, and brushed her hair just so.  While I had tears at first, the beauty of what I witnessed, the love both hospice staff and her sisters showed, erased my sadness and filled my heart with love too.

Later they wheeled her out the front door, to the waiting funeral van, wrapped in her favorite quilt.  By lantern light her caretakers read her favorite poem and we had one last chance to say goodbye.  The attendants carefully secured her and closed the doors with grace and dignity.  We stood quietly, holding hands, arms wrapped around shoulders, and watched the taillights fade into the night.

On Monday we had her funeral.  It was short and so her.  After we all came together for one last glass of dry, white wine and talk.  So much talk.  So many memories to share.  And while we talked, and sipped our wine, the kids played by our feet, or gave out hugs right when we needed them.  I wish Lia had been there to see us all together again.  She would’ve loved Monday.

My beautiful niece