Tag Archives: hospicare

Saying Goodnight

Saying GoodnightLiving alone, I don’t get to say “goodnight” very often, except to ghosts. But for one night every year, just before summer begins, I get to say it over and over again at Ithaca’s Hospicare and Palliative Care Services’ annual Illuminations, an evening of remembrance and community.

Five years ago I asked about volunteering for this event. Having a job to perform makes it easier to attend parties and gatherings, especially as a bereaved mother prone to bursting into tears. No one had filled the spot on the volunteer sign-up list requesting a Goodnighter. “Say goodnight to guests and thank them for coming,” the job description read. I could do that, I thought.

The first year, I was so nervous about approaching people that I forgot how easily I could fall apart upon hearing Christmas carols or smelling cucumber-melon body-spray. But I strolled through the gardens where hundreds of lit candles inside white paper bags lined the walkways, and found the ones labeled with my father’s and daughter’s names. Balancing a glass of wine and a plate of fresh fruit and cheese on my lap, I sat through the program of live music and poetry. Then it was almost dusk, time for floating candles on the pond. And Taps. Taps was my cue to start getting into place between the guests and the parked cars. There, I would chirp out my greetings to all the people as they left for home.

No one had mentioned that a real live, very talented trumpeter would be playing Taps. Suddenly, I was stuck stock-still, standing in a hailstorm with my skin turned inside out. The sun was setting bright red and I felt like a duck shot down out of the sky. Somehow I recovered, remembering, I was the Goodnighter. I quickly took my station. And remembered my lines. “Goodnight.” And “Thank you for coming,” I croaked, in between gasping recovery breaths. My shaking stopped when people started saying goodnight and thank you, back to me. And when it was all over, and the last guests had gone, I fetched the luminarias with my father’s and daughter’s names, and knew I’d found my calling.

So come say hello. Say goodnight to the Goodnighter. Goodnight is not goodbye. It is a sincere wish for your wellbeing. And it is my song of gratefulness. For a beautiful evening with people who understand love and loss. For feeling connected. For having the opportunity to say aloud, from my heart, goodnight and thank you. And to sometimes hear those words echoed back.

Illuminations at Hospicare on June 7, 2018 at 7:30
At 172 East King Road, Ithaca
A free event (but they’ll take donations for a personalized luminaria)

Talking with my Dead Daughter

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops her image in campfire flames along with photos from an exhibit of wildlife-up-close by Fingerlakes PhotographersI admit it – I talk to my dead daughter. It’s a lot easier to say this now that I’ve found I am not the only person talking to a dead loved one.
Moreover, she talks back.
“Get this one,” Marika said two months ago, when I was paging through a Garnet Hill mail order catalog to buy my birthday gift “from her.” It was a flame red dress with a floral design. Not exactly my style, but it was red. She had always bought me something red for my birthday, a red sweater, scarlet capris, red woolen socks.
“That dress is on back order,” the sales operator said when I called. “It won’t arrive until late June.” That seemed like a long time to wait. I ordered it anyway because it was the one Marika chose.

The package came earlier than predicted. The red dress was in my mailbox on the day of the campfire celebrating my friend’s husband’s life. I considered wearing it for the campfire. Whenever Marika had new clothes, she’d put them on immediately.
“No, it’ll be too buggy and cold tonight,” I told her as I tried the dress on. It fit, and felt perfect.

I wore the dress the next evening at the Hospicare and Palliative Care Services Luminaria Lighting where I volunteered as a “goodnighter,” seeing guests off as the sun set and the white paper bags with lit candles lined the walkways.
“Mom, can we take my bag home?” she asked after the ceremony.
“How will I find yours? There are hundreds of luminarias.”
It was dark. I walked alone.  The hem of my dress swept the path when I bent to read the labeled bags. I found it.

I wore the dress the evening after, at the Fingerlakes Photographers’ opening for the exhibit, A Closer Look: Independaent Visions of the Natural World, at Damiani Wine Cellars. It was my first time exhibiting three of my photos in a show. In my flame red dress I found Marika’s courage, and faced the crowd, proud of my new endeavors.

“Thanks, Mareek. What do you think?” I said before and after each event as I twirled around in the dress before Marika’s life-size portrait, my inherited dog dancing at my side. Talking to her is one way I keep my daughter in my present time. I will not allow Marika to be merely a part of my past.


How do you keep the ones you love, and thought you lost, in your current life?