The Gift of Good-Bye

by DanWolgemuth on June 7, 2024

On April 22, 2020, Eunice Cargo moved out of Peakview Assisted Living and moved in with us. The uncertainty of a pandemic, and the lack of personal interaction fueled our desire to make this happen. My mother-in-law was convinced that this was a temporary relocation, and that she would be back at Peakview in time to celebrate her 95th birthday on the 24th of May. Mary and I knew differently, but we conveyed that message in small and measured doses.

To most effectively steward this moment, we reconfigured the lower level of our house so that Eunice would have more space than a simple bedroom. We wanted her to feel as though she had an apartment with some level of independence.

What none of us fully anticipated was that her stay with us would only last for seven weeks. Not because we took her back to Peakview, but because she relocated permanently. Eternally. Cosmically. United with the God she honored and served. Reunited with the love of her life, Donald William Cargo.

At some point during the seven weeks with us, Mom realized that her failing lungs and weakened heart were either an excuse to complain, or an invitation to say her final good-byes. She wisely and courageously opted for the second.

I had a front row seat to Mom’s fierce commitment. In fact, at times Mary and I were the support staff that enabled prolonged moments of lingering and reflecting with family members who visited. Tenderness flowed, like the streams from a winter snow melt.

Rich conversation, memories unearthed and gratitude expressed.

For several weeks… “good-bye”.

Great-grandchildren. Grandchildren. Children. In-laws. One by one. Unhurried. Unhindered. Never self-conscious. Just unfettered from everything but love and gratitude. From two-year-old great-grandson, Mack, to her 70-year-old son, Bruce.

Love flowed. Expressed in flowers sent, and the gift of a tadpole from our son Andrew, and his two youngest kids.

In so many ways, Eunice had spent a lifetime getting ready to say a deeply personal, impactful, and inspiring good-bye.

She remembered the little things: the kindnesses of neighbors, church friends, and family. The hidden gems of joy buried in an austere upbringing. The proud connection to her Finnish ancestry that spilled over into unrecognizable statements that delighted her great-grands. The marvel of a husband who she adored, and who she made better.

She steered clear of regrets, even though she would have been the first to admit that she wasn’t perfect. But in those moments, she knew that regrets would only hijack the priority. They had no place. They were simply a part of what made life and love and growth possible.

She commended and commissioned. She held, and she allowed herself to be held.

Near the end of May, our daughter Alli returned from an extended time away with her husband and four young children. When Alli hugged Eunice, the message was short, clear and powerful… “I was waiting for you.” And she was. And she did. 

Then. Good-bye.

A lifetime getting ready for good-bye. Stewardship over the last few moments of life. Over the last few breaths she breathed.

A lesson to be learned. A life to be honored. A good-bye that will linger. For young and old. Four years later, and still fresh and real.

It’s my turn now. All roads lead to good-bye. But not all roads lead to the same good-bye. To an intentional good-bye. To a propelling and uplifting and inspiring and enriching good-bye.

Indeed, my turn now.

In preparation. In anticipation…

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