“This is the rest of your life. What are you going to do with it?”
That’s what Miss Dixie always said. Although I have countless things to remember about her, I’ll remember that the most.
My neighbor, my friend, my teacher, my surrogate grandmother, Miss Dixie, died today.
Some weeks ago I went into her house to check on her and found her lying in bed, panting. She was hot with fever and barely able to speak. I wanted to call an ambulance and she wanted to wait “a few more minutes”. In the end, my common sense won out and Miss Dixie agreed to go. Looking back at all she has endured since that afternoon, I wonder if my common sense didn’t interfere in her travel plans.
I cried today when only a few minutes after she passed, a family member came to my door. They were selfish tears, as tears often are. I knew Miss Dixie went exactly when she wanted and only after having completed a life that was absolutely overflowing in any way a life can be.
It’s my sincere belief that everyone, good and bad alike, who comes into our lives, does so in order for learning to take place. We are all teachers, all students and we are all in this thing together for the ultimate good. Sometimes it’s easier for me to hold onto that than other times. This week has provided some particularly painful lessons as I’ve been forced to face the unpleasant reality that people and things are not always as they seem.
But reflecting on all Miss Dixie taught me before she left this world for the next reminds me that not every life lesson must be painful and that thought gives me hope for better things.
What a wonderful legacy to leave behind. I would love to think that when I’m gone, someone might say I once gave them hope. I can think of nothing better.
I was blessed to have had a lot of time these last weeks to spend at Miss Dixie’s bed side. I was there to hold her hand, give her sips of water and brush the hair away from her face. Sometimes I just cried quietly while she slept. It was hard not to. She had lived an amazing life, this woman. Seeing her in that bed, attended to by people who had no idea who was inside that frail, old woman’s body, broke my heart in a million pieces.
So much so that very often I found myself telling everyone from the EMT’s to the nurses to the cleaning lady that this was someone special and had they known her before, they would understand why I spent so much time at her side.
There had been extensive travel to every place she’d ever even thought she might like to see…several of them many times. She appreciated art and loved Monet in such an infectious way; I found myself loving him, too. She liked her music loud and her coffee strong and told me so many wonderful stories of life with her beloved, late husband Carl; I could retell them as if I’d actually lived them. She understood down to her bones that life is about love and about happiness and she simply found the pursuit of anything else an unqualified waste of time.
Compromise was not an option for her when it came to being happy and she didn’t want it to be an option for me either.
Because I knew the final chapter of Miss Dixie’s life was being written, I left nothing unsaid. I told her what a difference she had made in my life, how much I loved her, how unbelievably lucky I was to have had her right next door and how I would never, ever forget the story she told of Carl coming to her one day after realizing that he was living someone else’s idea of life.
He was down in the dumps, out of choices and out of money and feeling as if the world had swallowed him up. The promise he’d made her once that she would live a life of fun with him seemed hollow.
She smiled and asked her husband the question that would change both their lives in a powerful way, “This is the rest of your life, Honey. What are you going to do with it?”
He answered. She encouraged. Their lives blossomed into something so rich and beautiful; it sustained her from the day of his passing until this morning.
I love you, Miss Dixie. And the next time I see you, I’m going to tell you what I did with it.
Life is a Highway ~ She loved loud country music, so crank it up!
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