One of the experiences we share in The Third Third is the death of loved ones, so I wanted to share with you that my mother, Helen Isabel Ferris Hynes, died at the age of 94 at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota on Sunday.
She lived independently all of her life, volunteered countless hours after her retirement, knitted hundreds of sweaters, caps, mittens, afghans - you name it! - and passed into the next part of her adventure just as she would have wanted. My brothers and I and our spouses had already planned a reunion in Lake City, Minnesota, when Helen was diagnosed with metastatic cancer about three weeks ago. On Friday, as she was preparing to meet us, she fell, broke her hip and had a heart attack.
My older brother and his wife found her in her apartment when he went to pick her up. We all quickly gathered in Rochester. She was in pretty good shape - talking, laughing, telling us what clothing to bury her in, telling stories - until Sunday morning when she very quickly declined. She died serenely with all six of us touching her, telling her one last time how much we love her, and releasing her. I was singing in my head - I was crying too hard to sing aloud - "Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling."
There will be a private burial with a memorial service to follow in the chapel at Charter House where she lived. We donated her corneas for research, as well as her brain - she was in several aging studies at Mayo Clinic. Even in her death she continues to give back to the community. We were relieved that while it was her wish to be buried next to my father who died in 1995, in Minnesota, embalming is optional. It was my mother's wish, always and forever, to "Keep it simple." Amen.
I have been saying that we have few if any models for how to live into The Third Third. I was wrong. If I can do the rest of my life with half the dignity, service and strength that Helen modeled for me, I will be grateful.
I will return home this weekend. In the meantime it would bless me greatly if you would send positive thoughts and prayers - of whatever flavor that have meaning for you - to my family.
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