Early Wednesday morning, Margaret Barner Trachta, my husband's mother, completed her 104-year journey on earth. And what a Spirited Woman she was! I wrote a tribute to her to mark her 104th birthday and now we are marking her departure from the earth plane and sending our prayers for the new adventure we know she is beginning.
Margaret must have had a very strong bond with this earthly life. There were many moments when I imagine she could have chosen to leave her body. Way back in the late '70's, she had breast cancer. She had a mastectomy, and evidently considered that chapter done. She always brushed off any suggestion that losing a breast might have been a big deal.
Her husband Stan, a community figure in Tucson who had been a Marine Colonel for one career and a lawyer for his second, was her true partner. Together they helped their daughter Mary Glenn parent their grandchildren Mike and Michelle, whose father died of cancer in his 30's when the children were too young to remember him. Stan was a Marine pilot and kept a small plane that the two of them flew around the west. They bought the ranch Jon and I maintain today and ran a summer camp there.
When Stan died at 86, Margaret must have wondered whether the next chapter would work for her. They had fallen in love early and been married over 60 years. But it looked like she barely missed a step. She and Mary Glenn travalled and started a business together. At 90 we caught her on a ladder on Thanksgiving, retrieving a platter from the top shelf.
In her 90's she had a major auto accident, and we figured maybe it would signal her exit. But she persisted with physical therapy and made it back to health. I think of her--tiny as she was at under 5 feet tall--as tough and very strong and healthy.
For her 100th birthday she threw herself a big party at the country club and worked the room, wearing a spiffy new suit and sparkly blue earrings that matched her eyes. Remembering everyone's name, she introduced people, always having been a great connector of people.
Shortly after that bright moment, Margaret had a major stroke. Mary Glenn, who had lived with her for years, took on her care. She was able to stay at home for the rest of her life, with only a couple of hospital visits. She survived a couple of bouts of pneumonia, despite our suspicion that they would do her in. Her granddaughter Michelle, a Mayo physician, marveled at her amazing health.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (my copy is yellowing, dog-eared and underlined in three colors) teaches that at the moment of death, we will see the dawning of the Ground Luminosity, or "Clear Light" of truth. This is the essence of us and of the universe, which is usually hidden from our ordinary mind by a veil. The Dalai Lama and other Buddhist teachers suggest we all prepare for the wondrous mystery of our own deaths, so that we will recognize this Clear Light, which appears to us in brief flashes during moments of love, illumination and deep meditation. We meditate so that we can begin to see all of life thought the lens of the Clear Light, and so that we might recognize it at the moment of our death. I suspect that when Steve Jobs reportedly said, "Wow!" just before he died, perhaps he saw the Clear Light.
And so I wish that Margaret, a woman of great, strong spirit, saw it too and is following it, carried by the perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty.