This morning at 3:00am I received a call from Whatcom Hospice House to tell me that Yvette had passed away peacefully a few minutes before. As I drove down (safely so you know) I began making the phone calls to let friends and family members know.
A close friend Lenore and I spent time with her and prepared her for transfer to the crematorium. Her brother Ed arrived from Bremerton and we spent time saying good-bye and reminiscing about the joy we had shared. Hospice House has a beautiful ceremony they call the leaving ceremony. Staff and family members gather as the gurney is taken to the mortuary van. She was covered with the beautiful quilt that she had been under for the last few days. Covered with hearts it seemed to signify the love that she had been wrapped in by the prayers of family and friends. Topping the quilt I placed three red roses signifying the love, the joy and the beauty she brought to my life. As she paused for a moment they rang a simple chime bell with crystal clarity three times. Once for birth, once for life and once for death. After allowing Ed and I to thank the staff for all the blessings that we had received, she was wheeled away through the doors that she had entered a few days before.
Simple. Beautiful. And as she wanted it.
The blessings. Where do I began? The many friends and family that stopped in to comfort us and be with us. Many of you got her gracious smile and thanks. The dogs that visited - Tyler and Tavis. The Threshold singers who sang both the night that we arrived and Monday night. Gentle soothing music that eased our time. The harpist who soothed Yvette in her final hours. That we even landed in Hospice House. It wasn't our first choice but within hours of arriving we saw God's hand in our choice and knew we were in the right place. Each day there seemed to be unexpected blessings. Nurses and staff that provided comfort with grace and heart. Yvette was so pleased with them all. And the hearts quilt was presented to me - unusual as normally they stay with the hospice - as we left. Another blessing.
Many of you know that Sunday was our twelfth anniversary. Though Yvette had planned for us to do renewal of our vows that wasn't to be. We spent the day looking at pictures and reminiscing. Well I spent the day looking and telling Yvette what I was seeing. Though she was largely unresponsive by then, the occasional soft smile let me know she was hearing me and sharing those memories. I found a copy of our service and read our vows to her reminding her that though death would soon part us we would be together in heaven soon enough.
As one of her dear friends said, "There is a joyful reunion going on in Heaven. You just know it. But before she let it start Yvette held up her hand 'Just minute Lord before we get started I have a couple of requests. Lord I want you to look after my husband. And Lord I have grieving family members and I want you to comfort them too. And my friends too Lord keep them close and safe. And NOW let's get this party started.'" That mental picture has been a great comfort to me. It is so Yvette.
As I have told many of you Psalm 48 wouldn't leave me this week. I sang it to myself and to Yvette many times. A song celebrating the Israelites triumphal ascension to Jerusalem, it seemed to capture the joy of going to heaven. Here is my rendition of it.
Go in peace Yvette.