Harriet’s last blog post…


Harriet and I (daughter Christina) have been enjoying creating these posts. They were her last way of communicating with the wider world, to let all the people she knows in the world, that she loves them and wants them to benefit from her experience of being a hospice patient. She felt strongly that there must be other people ‘out there’ who were on the same journey as she; or that their caregivers could read these few posts and learn something that may help. Now she’s finally starting down the path of death, and can’t share her wisdom with you. I’d like to tell you a little about Mom, for her last post.

Mom has always been a facilitator. “What can I do to help?” has been her mantra. Whether it was bringing together the family for dinners or birthday parties, or taking her dogs to the old folks’ home for visits, or going to the library (before there was an internet) to research an illness or situation for a sick or troubled friend, Mom never allowed life to tell her what to do and how things were going to be! There was always something she could do about a situation, she was convinced. Case in point: three years ago, the doctors told her she had 3-8 months to live after a heart ‘incident’. After being depressed for 2 days, she said she felt something inside her shift- I like to call it, “The hell you yell!” shift- and she began three years of recovery into life, and then her final decline.

Harriet felt that by writing things down, she could control her life, at least a little. Up until a couple days ago, she was writing in one of her many, many notebooks things that she wanted to keep track of- ah, but which notebook was it in?? Mom is a woman of books: pads of paper, magazines, notebooks, journals and diaries and daybooks, cookbooks…And of course literature: biographies, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and especially Buddhist literature. She loves Virginia Woolfe, M. Scott Peck, William Saroyan, Anne Tyler, HH The Dalai Lama. Whereas I read a book and instantly forget who the author is, she can remember the names of authors of books she read decades ago. Why? Because Harriet is an English Literature Major!

And not only is Harriet a woman of books, she’s also a woman of abundance. Mom likes to surround herself with stuff; one could call her a hoarder, but that’s not quite right. Rather, Mom wants to have enough food in her pantry and fridge, enough books, enough little gifts (that she would buy year ’round and say to herself, “Someone would like this, I’ll bet!”) etc., so that she can feed people, educate people and give anyone she knows a little gift when the occasion calls for it.

Mom’s go-to book in the last couple months has been, Advice on Dying by The Dalai Lama. I’m hoping she has internalized his messages, to make her passing easier: meditating while dying, to attain a mind of clear light in the end. Tucked into this book, I found an article by Fort Collins poet and writer Natalie Costanza-Chavez, called ‘Darkest Hours Always Yield to the Light’. She speaks of the “…waitfulness of crisis, void of all but the search for hope or calm or peace.” That’s where we are now, Harriet’s family. Natalie’s says of mourning families and friends, “… if they lean into the dark night, grace will come.”

Thank you, friends, for letting us lean on you, and with you, in our difficult time. Mom told us a couple days ago that she felt “like a ripe fruit, waiting to drop.” Thank you to the tree that grew her and saw her to fruition, thank you to the soil that nourished her and the air that caressed her, and thank you to the Spirit that holds her now, testing her ripeness, ready to bring her Home.


3 thoughts on “Harriet’s last blog post…”

  1. Hello Christina, Harriet, Will and Family,

    Thank you for a brilliant post, matter-of-fact, loving, and full of wonder about the mystery of life and death. Though she tells me she always felt a little on the outward edge of the Bissell family like my dad Howard, Harriet reminds me so much of my mom Merrilyn, who loved books and people and laughter, and was resolute about her own death. They both shared much about their families and their lives in letters to each other, and my mom loved to relay what Harriet was doing with and thinking about her family. There isn’t a day when I don’t get a wistful pang about the pure love of my departed parents — and Harriet is one of the gods like they were. All my love,



    1. Chip, thanks for the lovely comments! I guess I wouldn’t call Mom and god…she could be so damn cranky! However, as I write about her and we prepare for her celebration of life, I’m struck by what a good person she was. She truly wanted to help people and did so in her own way. If you’re around on August 12th, stop by for her celebration! I’ll send you the link by email. Christina


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