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It took my cousin four weeks longer than she expected to die.

Her body failed her about three years ago. Always an active person, Anne came home to her New Hampshire get-away after an afternoon of snow shoeing with her husband. He went upstairs and she made her way into the living room. It was then that she fell  to the floor in excruciating pain. It only took a minute for a bleed-out at the base of her skull to transform her life.

When she came out of her coma, she was totally helpless and at the mercy of her caregivers. For almost three years she endured a lonely, debilitating existence. She missed her job, her friends, but mostly she missed her eyesight. She grew tired of listening to CD books. She hated sitting in a wheelchair. She couldn’t be the grandmother she had always longed to be. She had no purpose in life.

While some of us are adept at making lemonade out of lemons, she wasn’t. Perhaps, under her circumstances, none of us would have been. She and I did look forward to our visits. Although we talked and laughed about events in the past, her world was bleak. During my last visit she asked for my permission to die. It was important to her that I support her effort to leave. She wasn’t sure what death held for her, but she couldn’t go on in her body.

About two months after our talk, I picked up the phone and heard, “Anne stopped eating.” The end was beginning. Or was her journey to death a journey to life? Call me weird, but death isn’t a scary thing to me. Life everlasting is a reality to me ever since I saw someone in spirit one cold night while gazing at a bonfire. He stood in blue jeans and a sweatshirt by the fire and then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone. My ghost, my spirit, my assurance that life goes on.

Anne died early one morning while her husband slept beside her. When he called to tell me, I smiled. She did it. She’s out of that body. I know what she did when she crossed over. She gave my daughter a hug. Anne said that would be the first thing she would do.

Goodbye. Hello. It’s not often that deaths are joyous events, but this one came close.