My mother, Virginia Crocker, completed her final journey Thursday morning, September 30 at 2:39. My two sisters, Jane and Susan and I were with her when she drew her last breath. It was both a heart rending and beautiful moment. We know that Mom is now resting peacefully after her difficult struggle and the many challenges she faced along the way. We also know that she's taking control of her new surroundings in ways that only she can.
My mother gave us many gifts throughout her life. In these last few weeks as we knew the end was nearing, as I guess is always the case, we spent a lot of time this week appreciating many of them over again, and some for the first time. She was a teacher by profession and more importantly in her heart, and she taught us much. None of the lessons will be any more important than the way she taught us through her actions and her choices once she was diagnosed with lung cancer last November. She lived these last months her way, confounding doctors, nurses, insurance companies, and often her children. As we all gathered last weekend to spend time with her, she was both confused and adamant that we shouldn't be there since she wasn't going to die that weekend. We found out later that she had told one of her nurses not only that she wasn't going to die over the weekend, but that the nurse would be bathing her in her bed later this week as she did reach the end. That came to be, and as I said, Mom was in control right up to the end and knew exactly how she was going to drive her bus on her road right up to the end.
Mom proved that F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous line "there are no second acts in life" was completely wrong. When my father passed away suddenly in 1987, Mom, a real product of her generation, found herself in a situation where she didn't know much about the family finances or how Dad had worked things out. Undaunted, she quickly learned what she needed to learn and embarked on a new life, and of course teaching us all a few things along the way. She took control of her life then in ways that amazed us all and stayed in control right up to the end. She've probably still very much in control even now.
Mom reveled in her children and her grandchildren's lives. One of the best gifts she, and my father, ever gave us, is that they delighted in our passions, our dreams, and our goals, even when they didn't understand what we were going after, or some of our choices. They both supported us to the hilt as long as we were happy. She loved hearing the details of everything we were living through and sharing them with others. That occasionally proved embarrassing, but that was just Mom's way of keeping us all humble. Even in this last week, when it seemed she wasn't completely cognizant of our presence, she would smile when one of us cracked a joke, or we told each other of something stupid or silly we had done. Even when she could hardly speak if any of us said something untoward she had her way of registering her disapproval.
One brief anecdote I'll share that typifies Mom's outlook on the human comedy we call life and death. When my father passed suddenly in 1987 it was a real blow to all of us. The morning of his funeral she came to me and said put on some shorts we've got something to do. She was wearing shorts at the time. When she told me what was up I lost it, laughing hysterically. Where we lived in Nelson County required us to make a trip to one of several garbage/recycling locations if we needed to dispose of trash. My father used to always chastise my mother because wherever we were going for whatever reason, if there was a "dump" on the way, we'd have to stop and dispose of the garbage. He'd tell her that "on the way to my funeral, you'll be wearing shorts and make a stop at the dump." It wasn't exactly on the way to Dad's funeral, but that morning she and I loaded up the car, in our shorts and headed to the dump. When we tossed the last bag in, she said, "well, I gave him what he wanted, and I hope he gets a laugh out of it." I"m sure he did. When the flights of angels took Mom to her great reward, I'm guessing those angels never had such a laugh filled trip.
My family is very grateful for all the love and support many of our friends have shown my mother and us through her final journey. Even those we haven't met personally but have come to know through the virtual world of the Internet. The warm wishes, prayers, and thoughts have meant a lot to all of us. Most importantly when we shared them with Mom you could tell that this was another way she was enjoying her children's lives albeit vicariously. If you know or knew any of us, you shared a piece of Mom whether you knew it or not.
I love you, Mom.
Her memorial service will be Monday, October 4 in Lovingston, Virginia at 2pm at the Wells Sheffield Funeral Home at 828 Front Street.