My Letter

July 8, 2018

From an early age, I was taught, as all good Congregationalists, that death - although sad because of the separation of the person who died - is a beginning. The beginning of what I am not exactly sure.

But I do believe that it is a beginning of an eternity of being with loved ones who have died before. And I strongly believe that those who have gone before you are there at your time to help you through whatever transition is needed between this life and the next.

I have had the opportunity to be in the presence of a couple of people as they died - most recently my Mom. My sister and I sat through the night talking to Mom - even though Mom was beyond responding. We joked and laughed at things we knew she would have laughed at. And when she took her last breath, there were tears but not real sorrow. I knew she had been reunited with my Dad who had died 30 years before. Besides, I know I would be reunited with her again.

I have had the opportunity to be a hospice volunteer. Visiting with people who know they are at the end of their lives - and who have amazing stories to share. I am lucky to be able to hear these stories.

But I have to go back 44 years to an event that allowed me to be with Mom and allows me to volunteer with Hospice.

When I was 13, my Grandfather died. It was a difficult time for me - my first experience with the death of someone close, and since I was the 1st female in several generations on my Dad's side, I wasn't just Daddy's little girl, I was Grandpa's little girl.

I did a lot of crying/sobbing.

When we arrived at the funeral home in the small Maine town he lived in, my Dad said he would have someone take me to the house so I wouldn't have to go in. But no - I had to go in. And I did go in. I took my time meeting the family & friends I knew in the parlour slowly working my way to the alcove where the body was laid out. And then I went in.

As I looked at my loving Grandpa, I was overcome/filled with an incredible sense of peace - all tension left my body and there were no more tears. I knew then (as I know now) that Grandpa was in Heaven and some day we would be reunited. Years later my Dad told me that others who were in the alcove at the same time as me said they could see a total transformation in me.

So now when someone close to me dies, I cry - usually a lot. But that is the selfish part of me. I'm crying for my loss - the physical body that is gone. In quiet moments of reflection on the person who is gone, I smile and I know deep inside my heart that I will be with them again.

Sue Purkis

Sue Purkis, Citizen

This letter is part of the Death Letter Project - North Carolina, a means to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC.


Michael Palko