The dreaded phone call came.
I was sitting at my computer working, but taking pause to savor my stunning yellow, orange and red hibiscus, blooming in all its Puerto Vallarta glory. But peaceful calm was soon shattered. My best friend since childhood, Cheryl Satterfield Nash, called. Her beloved sister, Bonnie Satterfield Baker, had passed away.
Gritted teeth, tearful gulps of sorrow erupted.
Bonnie, eight years older, had been my big sister, too. I grew up a couple houses down from Cheryl and Bonnie. Popular Bonnie was always patient and kind to us younger brats. We were loud and obnoxious, but Bonnie drove us around in her parents’ sleek tan and cream-colored ’55 Chevy. She let us look down the staircase and sneak peeks into her teen parties. Perhaps she never knew Cheryl and I raided her snacks before her guests arrived with their 45’s ready to take a spin on the record player. She made the best French onion chip dip and always had big bowls of M and M’s. We dipped our mitts into them all too frequently. Yummy years.
Bonnie was a “card”.
Witty, cool, and ever the one for a great joke, her antics were always a gleeful show-stopper. “Generosity” was her middle name. All those years my mom needed live-in care, Bonnie would visit with Cheryl and Bob and their super kids, Shelby and Josh. Lucky Mom was a part of the Bonnie/Cheryl clan. One of Mom’s favorite meal memories was eating Bonnie’s mac and cheese with a chunk of tasty ham for good measure.
I remember one Easter Mom was invited to Cheryl’s for dinner. Mom had never taken part in an Easter egg hunt. A tad bit reticent with not a competitive bone in her body, Mom sat watching. Eyeing this passivity, Bonnie grabbed Mom’s arm, put an Easter basket in her hand, and off they galloped. Something tells me Bonnie had planted those eggs or at least knew the Easter Bunny up close and personally. Soon, Mom’s basket spilled over with colored egg delight…and I believe the winning egg count, too! That was Bonnie, thoughtful, empathetic, and fun.
A few days prior to her passing, brave Bonnie decided to go off dialysis.
Her poor body was worn out from several incapacitating diseases paired with a rare disease, Wegener’s, that had taken her to her knees for years. For many weeks, she had been flat on her back in excruciating pain. She knew the consequence of her decision, and she even rallied those last few days. We all thought she had several weeks of life, but she and her maker had other plans.
God love her, the decision to let go and travel to Heaven did not come easily. Very spiritual, she thought she might be committing suicide. She could not fathom that. After many talks with family, friends, minister, and hospice, Bonnie was finally at peace with her decision. Time to let go and wing her way to Heaven.
Cheryl’s family threw a humdinger of a 73rd birthday party for her.
In bliss, Bonnie munched Cheryl’s homemade chocolate cake with chocolate peanut butter icing and home-churned chocolate ice cream. She loved her fragrant fresh daisy and spring flowers. Bonnie told jokes, laughed, and had a blast. Her family was there every day.
Two days after her birthday, her entire clan was there again when she took her last peaceful breath. She was happy, calm, and had continued to joke and play around until minutes before Heaven’s pearly gates invited her in. She told her only son, Brain, and grand daughter, Hannah, and Cheryl, Bob, Shelby and Josh, how much she loved them. She even blessed them with parting words of wisdom and how she hoped they would show up in life after she was gone. Till the end, she was giving joy.
Just before she passed, Bonnie’s last message took their breath away.
Dumbstruck jaws dropped. Eye-brows raised. Their hearts skipped a beat. Totally lucid, she peacefully described her crystal clear vision. Her younger brother, Kevin, was there. He was welcoming her and guiding her home to Heaven. Kevin, 22, had died at the hands of a drunk driver. Gracious grace. What a parting gift. Much loved angel Kevin pulled at their heart-strings. After all these years, he joined his earth family once again. Hope and faith took wing.
As our Native Americans friends would say, “It was a good death.” And Bonnie deserved it.
Mom used to tell me she wished she had a magic carpet so she could fly in to see me. That is the exact thought that came to my mind the Saturday of Bonnie’s funeral. I so much wanted to be there in Delaware with my second family. I thought about them constantly. What could I do to let them know my heart was with them?
My brain fired up some pedal-perfect positive psychology coaching magic. I knew what I was going to do. Time to honor Bonnie and take her love to picturesque Puerto Vallarta streets. Literally.
Saturday is lively market day. I high-tailed it to the flower vendor with my friend, Karen Hamlin. There was only one bunch of daisy-like flowers. Eureka, I was in luck! I had a plan. I was going to honor Bonnie. Her love for others needed to be beamed up to her in Heaven.
I decided to pay a visit to my lovely vendor friends. To tell them about Bonnie’s passing and have them celebrate her life with me. Then I realized I wanted to add strangers. Bless her generous heart, my sidekick celebrant, Karen, took the photos.
I thought of Barbara Fredrickson’s micro-moments of happiness. I made sure to look everyone in the eye and smile. Each surprised flower recipient shared my joy and serenity. They paused and appreciated hearing my happy memories of Bonnie. Their smiles and kindness were palpable.
I think Bonnie would have loved knowing she had a grand celebration south of the border.
I hope our positive energy traveled to Delaware at the exact time her friends at home were honoring her. There may be nothing new under the sun, but a simultaneous “celebration of life” I hope made her flap her angel wings with joy.
The loss of two very special friends in one month (see last month’s blog celebrating Kelly Nelson) kicked me to the curb. But it also helps me focus on the beauty of life. It fans my appreciation of how quickly life morphs. My context has changed. My world has become diminished, but I know it will once again expand with love. I honor their essence in a special place within my heart.
Each of you grieves in your own unique way. But what do I know for sure?
Positive psychology is an action verb of vibrancy a midst life’s darkest moments. Look for the good. It is always there for you to discover as you begin to recover. I still feel numb, but I am alive and hopeful. I live with the certainty that spring will arrive and gift my garden with welcoming yellow spring flowers. They will engender joyful smiles in Bonnie’s honor. This year, I will plant more daisies, and I will think of lovely her.
Bonnie, you loved daisies. I found this precious poem for you. I hope it brings you pedals of pleasure in Heaven.
I love you and your family with all my heart.
Hugs headed to Heaven,
Once Upon A Day
white lips of nature
each one a star from God,
Breeze dusts their golden faces
as they search for the sky,
mute as the breath of angels
their voices still travel in beauty
calling to the birds singing to the bees
they dance with the wind
till chubby fingers lift their hearts
into tiny circles
each one a study of love
created to lie in drapes on cherubic arms
Transformed they become much more,
haloes of nature
a child’s wish, a parent’s hope,
small pockets of sunshine,
so much beauty in such tiny amounts
on a green day,
Small links between the grass and play,
of golden childhood,
they live on in the heart and memories
of once upon a day