Some of us are fortunate enough to have a pretty good idea of when we will end our time here on earth. Regina was one of those. She was able to decide where and how she wanted to spend her last days, and Beth and I were honored that she and Julie wanted to spend it at our home.
Julie, and Regina's amazing siblings and cousins made all the logistic arangements from the Richmond end and we took care of the Tapphannock end. She settled in pretty easily and we were off and running, with the goal of a peaceful passing ever in our minds and actions. She was mobile, active, aware and as always, funny up until the last few days. In short, she was fully Regina as long as she could be.
The saying, "It takes a village." cannot be more true than in a situation like this. The family and the hospice staff worked tirelessly to accomplish Regina's wishes. People who had an important part in her care, without realizing that they were answering God's call, were critical. For instance, when you need medication and a man drives 1 1/2 hours to deliver it to you at 9:30 at night because he knows it probably couldn't wait til morning, reminds us that the prayers and the energy that were radiating around all of us were powerful. Moment after moment let us know that all things, and I mean all things were working together for the good.
Nature showed up many times and in many ways to let us know that it was aware of what was happening on our property and that what was happening was a part of nature. We all, including Regina, felt very connected.
We learned a few truths: 1) The difficult truth told with love and calmness is the only way to go. 2). We can endure anything for 5 seconds, even if you have to repeat those 5 seconds over and over. 3). Keeping the goal in mind helps get through those difficult moments. 4). And we learned, again, that this thing called death is sad but not scary. In fact, it was a beautiful experience.
We will remember the great times we had during those 12 days -- we danced, we talked, we ate and we sang. I ran around with sparklers one night, we enjoyed pizza by a bon fire and Beth played and sang every song Regina requested. We soaked up the time with as many good stories and jokes as we could.
It will be no surprise that Regina got the last two jokes in on us. She had been eating small pieces of candy for several days and the time came that I had to tell her she couldn't have anymore due to the risk of choaking. She was upset and said, "You mean a Twix bar was my last piece of candy?" I said I was afraid so. An hour later, as she was getting up again, 3 pieces of candy fell out of her shirt and bounced on the floor. I said...well, I won't say what I said, but she said, "At least let it be a Milky Way!" Oh my, how she laughed!
The very last joke she played was after she passed. The hearse was starting to pull out of the driveway and as the tires hit the street, Beth and I heard a loud clunk on the roof of our house. We ran around to the back and as the hearse drove past, we saw one of our 10' orange umbrellas on the rooftop. It had been picked up out of a cast iron stand, flipped and placed over the screened-in porch. Beth immediately looks at the sky and yells, "Regina, you didn't need to do that!" Somehow, we know it was her saying goodbye!
The last coherent thing Regina said to me was after an especially painful moment. She looked at me and whispered, "I could not have picked a better friend for this." I'm telling you, it doesn't get any better than that.
-- Written by Dana Wells, who, along with Beth Harvey, opened their home to Regina during Regina's last 12 days.