Final Gifts

Our Warrior gracefully and peacefully journeyed “home” on Friday, December 5th, at 12:41 p.m…

Choreographing right up until the moment of her death, Terri Luanna waited for her beloved husband to arrive. Then, as in all she did in her brief life, Terri passed gracefully and in peace, surrounded by all who loved her dearly.

Terri also ensured Miss M was partaking in a fabulous adventure with auntie L at the time of her death, making sure I was almost home before Heron called to tell me that her time was imminent.

I was not destined to be by Terri’s side, literally, but rather to “unpack” her mother’s leave-taking as we had done with her mother’s cancer journey. The recurring message from our Warrior? Live life fully amidst the pain and heartache…

Heron drove to my home later that afternoon, where he found Miss M and her “favorite cousin” (her words!), Jamie, listening to their favorite pop music and doing art work between dance moves. Papai took Marisa upstairs to share the news. Soon after, they joined the rest of the O’Neil clan and it was Miss M, child of her mother, who again taught the grown ups that life does in fact go on.

Papai gave Marisa the blue light necklace from hospice, beautifully explaining its significance as he peeled off the paper, releasing a bright, iridescent blue glow.

“It will stay blue for 3 days because that is how long it will take Mamae to travel to heaven. She will always be with us and will visit us in our dreams.”

It was unbelievably heart wrenching to witness, but such an honor to call this incredibly loving family my own…

A few minutes later, Marisa asked about the play we were supposed to attend. Her “O’Neil cousin”, Lauren, was “starring in” (Marisa’s words again), our high school’s rendition of Scrooge and Marley, and Marisa had come home with me to see Lauren  make her stage debut.

“Do you still want to go?” I asked.

To which she replied,  “Yes!”

Of course she did… She is her mother’s daughter after all.

As soon as she arrived home, she melted into her Papai’s arms and went up to bed where he hung their blue light to watch over them while they slept. In the morning. Heron told me he held her close, telling her how much he loved her and how lucky they were to have been loved by Mamae. Then he kissed her cheek, she kissed his, and together, they blew a kiss to Mamae which they have done each morning since Terri’s passing…

On Saturday, we all gathered in CT.

To remember. To grieve. To celebrate.

And Terri continued to scatter her “Final Gifts”…

There was one in the red cardinal her friend Patty saw outside her kitchen window at 12:45 on Dec. 5th.

Another in the perfectly timed Happy Song that played 3 times in the car with Marisa the day she died.

And one of my favorites, the dance party Miss M orchestrated on Saturday, insisting we all dance to Mamae’s favorite “New York” song by Alicia Keys and Jay Z.

Our Warrior will be remembered most for her voracious and passionate love of life, her boundless compassion, and her deep and abiding faith in the innate goodness of human kind. The world is a better place because of Terri’s legacy of strength, hope, and commitment to living life to it’s fullest. Her indomitable spirit will live on in all of us; the people all over the world whose lives she touched…

Terri had one wish when asked how she wanted us to commemorate her life.

“I want a party and dancing…” Simple as that.

So that’s what we are giving her.

She also wants her ashes scattered in her beloved NYC as well as a commemorative bench in Astoria Park. This celebration will be open to all of you, her beloved army of soldiers, who bore witness to, accompanied and cherished our beloved Warrior.

We have set up a new gracefulwomanwarrior Memorial Fund via GoFundMe at, which will be used to fund Miss M’s education and cover any remaining medical expenses. A new button will be installed on this page (as soon as I can get auntie D over here to do it!)

In the mean time, please know that together, we will continue to keep Terri’s story and her legacy alive…

Love, auntie L

Celebrating Terri...

Celebrating Terri…

21 Responses

  1. Laurie, thank you so much for posting. I want so dearly to take away the pain, though I know that’s simply not possible. I’m sending all my love out to the whole family and grieving with you… and celebrating the wonderful person Terri was, is, and will always be.

  2. Auntie L., you are graciousness itself to continue sharing. Marisa has been raised by a village, and I know that will continue, and that she will never be able to forget her Mamae because Terri will be with her through all of you.

    It’s so early now, but I was looking at Terri’s bucket list. #6. “Write and publish an inspirational book that helps people” struck me as fulfilled through this blog. But perhaps a day will come when someone in Team Teri will take this blog and turn it into a book. Though she ultimately lost her battle, your niece has truly shown innumerable people how to fight and persevere, and finally how to let go with inspirational grace.

  3. To all of Terri’s loved ones,

    I’m sending all of my and my family’s love to you all. Although we never met, I’m sure that your Graceful Warrior Woman is finding the peace she deserves, and is looking down on all of those she loves. May she be your guardian angel. and look after you all of your lives.

    Erin Cait Sullivan

  4. Thank you for posting. I am a continent away and never had the privilege of meeting Terri, but I have loved reading her story and I’m in tears reading this latest chapter.

    What a lovely family she leaves behind. I will be thinking of you all as you celebrate her.

  5. I miss my wife very much! She was my wife, my best friend, my cheerleader, my therapist, the mother of my child… now she is my angel

    • Heron,
      I wish I could tell you it gets easier. It doesn’t, exactly. But with enough time, you come to get used to it. It’s like losing a leg. For a long long time it’s the last thing you think about as you fall asleep, and the first thing you think about on waking. But then one day, you wake to find that you’re just another one-legged asshole, trying to hop through his busy day. With enough time, you can get used to anything–even a giant hole in the universe. That’s been my experience.

      Our pain now is the measure of how incredibly lucky we were, for so long….

  6. A traveller’s blessing for her –
    May God guard you, guide you, shield you
    Shelter all your journeying s
    Go wherever you may travel
    Safe beneath eternal wings.

    She has gone home, but her light remains.

  7. You are all so gracious and generous. Thank you for continuing to share the story. Terri’s blog was such an inspiration, and her family is continuing to inspire that love, grace, and peace. Thank you so much!

  8. Thank you for your beautiful and sensitive treatment of this tragic, tragic journey. After Jeanne’s passing I thought this family could bear no more, but life keeps throwing things our way. Nice to see Spider smiling, Terri would be pleased, and of course in the middle of things as we expect. Love and light to all.

  9. PS:

    “On the night of December 5, 1248, as Rumi and Shams were talking, Shams was called to the back door. He went out, never to be seen again.

  10. “Twilight and evening bell,
    And after that the dark!
    And may there be no sadness of farewell,
    when I embark.

    For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place,
    the flood may bear me far,
    I hope to see my Pilot face to face,
    when I have crossed the bar.”

    Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

  11. Pingback: TalkCast 257 – Ramon Gil | Sci Fi Saturday Night

  12. I’m so sorry for your loss, for our loss. Remembering Terri, whom I knew mostly through this blog, with gratitude and admiration.
    May those who are mourning be buoyed by the blessings and love of the thousands of people she influenced. May her light, reflected in us, give you sustenance.

Comments are closed.