Good Night, Virginia. I'll see you in the morning.

Last month, Virginia died. She was 98 years old.

It's hard to believe that she was that old. I saw her most Sundays, after she'd attended the early Mass, and I was coming in for the later one. She would be waiting for a kind parishioner to take her home, or she would be calling a taxi. "Hello, this is Mrs. Chester Ott. I would like a taxi at the Parish of Saint Mark, please. Ten twenty-five northwest twenty-first avenue. My account number is ...."

A few years ago, when the new VW Beetles came out, she bought one in bright banana yellow. She drove it without any sort of problem and with a lot of enjoyment. I mean, what's not to love about a bright yellow VW Beetle?

But one day, she read in the paper about a man who'd crashed his car into things, and she thought to herself, "Why, the old fool. He shouldn't have been driving at his age!" ... and then, "Oh dear. He's younger than I am." So Virginia sold her yellow Bug before she became the old fool in the newspapers. That's why she had an account with the cab company.

In recent years, she had acquiesced to using a cane - but that might have been only since her fall and subsequent broken shoulder. She certainly never was seen hunching over or hesitating when she walked. And once her shoulder had healed, she continued on with her several service projects and responsibilities.

Awhile back, after we had both been at the same midweek Mass, we had a conversation. She told me she was sorry she couldn't come to the ladies' luncheon, but that she couldn't do everything she used to be able to do. She wasn't complaining - more just noticing it. It was like she was describing the limitations of a new raincoat, not suitable for colder weather. But she could still read, she said. She was very grateful for that - she still had the full use of her eyesight, and she could read all she wanted to. When I remember all other things she did, I suspect that she did not do much of this leisurely reading during daylight hours.

One day last month, she made a phone call from her apartment in the assisted living complex. She told the nurse who talked to her that she didn't feel quite right. They said she should come on down to the clinic so they could check her out, but she said she would not be doing that. "Do you need an ambulance?" "No. No, I don't think an ambulance is necessary." They sent someone to her room to find out what was going on.

When they got there, they found that she had hung up her phone, sat back in her chair, and gone to God. Peacefully, quietly, and, Virginia-like, only after cheerfully informing someone that she'd be leaving now.

Virginia Ott fell asleep in this life and woke in the next. She has joined the others from our parish who wait for me - this group of smiling and contented people with whom I've knelt to pray. These people who have wished me a Happy Easter and a Merry Christmas - people who have shown me what duty and real happiness have to do with each other - people whose confidence in the goodness of the Lord has taken them through World Wars and widowhood and losses they never fussed over.

Someday I will join them.

Good night, Virginia. I'll see you in the morning.

O LORD, support us all the day long,
until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.
Then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging,
and a holy rest,
and peace at the last. Amen.


Alexandra said...

beautiful. thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

I agree. VERY beautifully written.

-carol whipps