..As I write this blog, it is Thursday afternoon, the 13th of May, 2021. This morning at 10 am Eastern Daylight Time, Margaret Vanderbeek Barstow, my wife Cedar’s mother Meg, was pronounced dead. According to the nurse on duty, she had probably passed a half hour earlier. Cedar had just finished at the dentist when she got the call. When she arrived at the Y, where we were both scheduled for one of our thrice-weekly water-fitness classes, she gave me a long hug and told me the news. I wasn’t surprised. I had expected Meg to leave around this time. But when the actual event happens, it’s still a shock. Swimming was helpful. After, we had an initial family Zoom call. Then, ninety minutes later, Dan, the youngest of the three Barstow siblings, set up a Zoom call from Jefferson House, the long-term-care facility that was Mother’s final home. “Long-term” is a kind of misnomer. She was there perhaps six weeks. Anyway, each of us on the call had a chance to see her no-longer-breathing body and say our final goodbyes...
In an earlier blog about Mother Meg, I told of Cedar’s and my road trip to help her celebrate her 100th birthday. Two days after that event, we paid her one last visit. As I drifted off—Cedar later said I had been holding the space—she had a final, exceptionally lucid conversation with her mother. Meg had told me a year or so ago that she had intended to live to her 100th birthday and not much more. (She had seen her friend Lois get to 105, but in her last five years, Lois had entered and stayed in the dark night of Alzheimer’s. That was the last thing Mother had wanted and said so.) I reported what she had told me to Cedar. In our farewell visit to her in Jefferson House, Cedar asked her, “Mother, now that you’ve reached 100, do you still plan to leave soon?” With total clarity my incredibly loving mother-in-law answered in words along these lines, “This is still what I want.” She then went on to say, “I wonder what Robbins [her husband who had died 10 ½ years ago] will look like now? It’s been so long since I saw him.” And her concluding words to Cedar were, “Don’t worry. I’ll see you in the air.”
When Cedar got home today, perhaps a half hour after getting the news, she was sitting out on our back-deck swing. Her brother, Dr. David Barstow, had given her two identical birdhouses made of cedar wood. (What else?!) As our Cedar rocked back and forth, she noticed for the first time that a little sparrow was building a nest inside the backyard birdhouse. Then she remembered Mother telling her, “I’ll see you in the air.” Meg Barstow, my mother-in-law from heaven, true to her word, was now making her new nest in Heaven. I have no doubt that she was really seeing us from the air.
A second birdie showed up to help build the nest.