And So We Danced

The Dartnell Siblings

And so the sun faded on another day and my sisters and daughters and I continued to sit with my mother as she breathed slowly, drifting in and out of wakefulness and sleep.

At a particularly awakened moment, she told us about her five brothers who loved to dance. I told her that the four who are no longer with us would be waiting for her on the other side, dancing with two of her sisters, telling jokes and drinking wine and smoking Gitanes. “They’ll throw such a party for you mom.”

And she smiled and I scrolled through my ITunes and found a Charles Aznavour song she knew and as it played, the five of us danced to his voice crooning and my mother lay propped up in her bed smiling. For a moment her eyes sparkled with joy and when we stopped turning around and around and swaying our arms, she laughed and clapped her hands and whispered, “Oh my dancing girls.”

And then, she fell back to sleep.

She has been mostly sleeping since that moment of joy last night. My eldest daughter, Alexis, remained throughout the night at her bedside, curled up on the easy chair in the corner, keeping watch. And my breath catches in my chest when I think of what a gift she has given my mother, and what a gift this special time we are all sharing in is for both my daughters. For all of us.

By this morning mom had fallen into a deep sleep, stirring only briefly when the nurse comes in.

Waking her is difficult now. And still, if she does open her eyes, she says, as if disappointed, “I’m still here?”

And we smile and touch her crippled hands and tell her it’s okay to go, whenever she’s ready.

We do not know when the time will come and so, we continue to sit with her in the numinous light of what Angeles Arrien calls ‘The Gold Gate’ in her book, “The Second Half of Life. Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom.” We all come in through the Silver Gate and we all go out through the Gold Gate, she writes. There are many gates in between…

This is the gate of surrender, faith and acceptance. It invites us to befriend the death of our physical form and accept that holding on to attachments is not necessary.

I am learning to befriend the death of my mother’s physical form. To accept its journey here on earth is nearing its end. To surrender to her will and faith and to not begrudge this time of her departure.

I am learning to live in the grace of this waiting time, this vigil, this holding space for her to cross over with our arms full of love gently holding her up. To accept that this death is part of my life because her gift is this life I breathe into every day.

I do not know how many breaths my mother has left to take. In the grace of watching her take each breath, I am learning to embrace the ephemeral and ethereal nature of all life. It is a slow walk home to what lays beyond what I can see and know and feel. In its mystery and its majesty, I breathe deeply into the mystical moments we get to share in my mother’s final journey and say a prayer of gratitude.



In the photo above my mother is about sixteen years old. She is the girl sitting in the front, on the left, with the shorter hair.


14 thoughts on “And So We Danced

  1. hugs to all of you. i love her moments of memory and this is a slow winding down process, just as it is a slow process as we grow and get ready to enter this world. hugs to all of you and lucky you have this time together

    Liked by 1 person

  2. While Paula Anka’s song for Frank Sinatra – My Way – was written for a man to sing about his life, as I read your pre-eulogy, I couldn’t help but wonder if those words fit her life too:

    And now the end is near
    And so I face the final curtain
    My friend, I’ll say it clear,
    I’ll state my case of which I’m certain.
    I’ve lived a life that’s full,
    I travelled each and every highway,
    And more, much more than this,
    I did it My Way.

    Sleep is sleep and then it isn’t.

    My thoughts, as I am sure many of your readers’ are too, with you tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mark — what’s funny is yesterday, or the day before, or maybe before (I can’t remember which) I had said how mom always complained about how I always had to ‘do it my way’. My youngest daughter laughter and said, I get it from both of you. 🙂

      I so appreciate your thoughts my friend. ❤


  3. Your Mother will always be with you, in your heart, soul and mind. You will find yourself gazing into nothingness and a memory will float into your consciousness of your Mother. You reach out to ask her a question and then you realize she is not there but somehow the answer/solution comes to mind. You will seek the comfort of her touch only to be warmed by memories of her arms as they enveloped you with love. You will do something and you will hear your Mother’s voice telling you something profound. Mothers never “leave”, their job is to always be there as a guide, mentor, comforter, supporter and on occasion, they will chide you. Peace ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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