Grieving Mother bids Disabled Daughter Farewell…Journey’s End

Fortunately the words flowed for Denise



By Nona Fisher

Editor’s Note: Denise Ragsdale lived the fullest life a person can with the grave disabilities she had since birth.  Learning to walk and talk with the help of her loving mother when the doctors deemed it impossible was only one of the milestones in her life.  She had a job in a sheltered workshop and won the gold in Special Olympics.  This is the last moment in her valued life.

Denise, my daughter who had been disabled from birth, was diagnosed with brain cancer the day after Easter on April 23, 2019. She spent one week at Los Robles hospital where I visited eight hours each day. The doctors and nurses did all they could for her and were so nice to me.

When she was transferred to Camarillo Healthcare Center, a skilled nursing facility in Camarillo, I rode in the ambulance with her. The staff there was wonderful. I cannot commend them enough. All of them always treated her with loving care.

I visited her seven to eight hours six days a week for those last two months and three weeks of her life.

On Thursday, July 25th, my day off, Theo, my son, Denise’s younger brother, and I were in Ventura when a nurse called in the afternoon, “Denise has taken a severe downward turn”. 

Although it had been expected, I had understood that she had another two weeks or more. I said, “Maybe I should wait until morning.”

But Theo, insisted we go right away. Bless my son, who was my rock that day.

When I saw Denise I caught my breath and had to stand a moment to collect myself. Her other “downward turns” had been nothing like this. She was on her right side facing the door. Her eyes were less than half open, her mouth gaping as she struggled to breathe – deep, body racking gasps. 

I sat on the bed next to her, took her hand in my left one, began brushing her cheek with my right index finger and sang the chorus of “Our Song”, her favorite hymn, “How Great Thou Art”. We always sang it when we strolled the outside perimeter of the facility, first with her walker then with me pushing her wheelchair. 

The words came: “Honey, it’s time to let go. The doctors cannot help you. The medicine can no longer help you. Nothing here can help you, Denise, and God and Jesus are waiting for you to come up to them so they can make you well. 

“Up in Heaven you will be well again. No more cancer ever. And you will no longer be Special Needs, Dese. Everyone you lost in this life will be there to greet you and lead you to God and Jesus. And all your friends who were Special Needs that are up there will be like you, healthy and normal.

“And God and Jesus will be there with all their love for you. There, everyone will love you. You’ll be safe there.”

I said aloud a prayer asking God and Jesus to heal her, to love and protect her and keep Guardian Angels around her.

Her breathing eased a little.

Then it occurred to me to put Heaven into terms she could understand:    “And you know what? You’ll be able to ride horses like Little Joe Cartwright (Bonanza was her favorite TV show). You’ll be able talk just like everyone else without struggling for words. And just think, if you lift one foot you’ll be able to fly with the Angels.”

Her breathing eased a little more.

“Guess what else Denise? I will be coming up there soon. Tell you what, once you’re there you look for an apartment so when I get there we can move in together like we’ve always wanted to do. Live together again.”

Her breathing eased even more but I got the feeling she was waiting for something more, “Dese, I know you don’t want to go. I understand that. But we can’t help you here. Only God and Jesus can help you now. So, please, honey, let go and go with God.

Dese, even though this life threw a lot of bad things at you, you faced every one of them. You were brave and strong and always did your best. I am so very, very proud of you.”

Her breathing evened out and became much more shallow. Again, that feeling she was waiting. For what?

“Oh Dese, I am going to miss you terribly. But it’s time to let go. You know I love you so much. And I know you love me.”

She gave the briefest, mouth twitch of a smile, a tiny sigh and – let go.

A Hospice nurse standing next to me was listening to Denise’s heart and murmured, “At 6:18pm, her heart stopped beating.” 

“Her heart stopped?” I gasped.

“Yes. She is gone.”

Theo and I were at peace. I had helped her crossover.

Denise Ragsdale

Nona Fisher lives in Sacramento, CA

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One Response to Grieving Mother bids Disabled Daughter Farewell…Journey’s End

  1. Mary August 4, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    A God-blessed passing to the next life. Beautiful story. Thanking her mother for all the care, love and witness. We should take note and like this mother, do our best in life for all our loved ones ables and disabled. This story gives us hope and so grateful for reading it.


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