Death and Tag and Minnie Johnston

Minnie Johnston at 20(?) years old

We are using the same calendar now that we used in 2002.

On Saturday November 9, 2002,  Minnie Johnston (née Wright) decided to die.  How surprising her decision.  All of the women in our family, as with other families, outlived their husbands.  But here was Mom checking out before Dad.  What a shock!

Mom used to play tag with us when we were kids.  She would hand us our lunches, on our way to school, and then tag us.  “You’re it!” she would say.  Of course, we would try to tag her before we got out the door to make her it.  Sometimes we would tag her, and most times we would not.  When she tagged us and made us it, she would close the door, look out the window and stick her tongue out at us.  She was a big kid.

My brother and my two sisters stopped playing tag with Mom as they got older, but I kept playing right up until a week before she died.

Several months before she died, I would visit her in the hospital.  As I left I would touch her and say, “You’re it!”

“That’s not fair,” she would say.  “I can’t get out of this bed.”

I would leave the hospital with my head high and my chest out.  How triumphant I was!

It was the same when she was home after leaving the hospital.  She could walk, but was not as quick as she used to be.  I always made sure I tagged her before I left.  “You’re it!” I would say and then leave with my head high and my chest out.

I talked to her on the telephone, but I did not visit her for a week before her death.  How disappointing that she died so suddenly without any warning, and without giving me a sign. Was she okay?   She believed in life after death.  I hoped in the hours following her death that she would appear to me or somehow communicate with me.  Nothing.

We made the funeral arrangements on Sunday November 10, 2002.  Visitation was on Tuesday November 12 and Wednesday November 13, from 2 – 4 pm and 7 – 9 pm.  Her funeral was on Thursday November 14, 2002.

On Wednesday November 13th, I waited for everyone to leave after the 2 – 4 pm visitation.  I was in the room alone with my mother.

“Ma,” I said, “you died so suddenly.  You never gave me a warning or a sign.  Can you give me a sign now so I know that you are okay?”

I expected some grand miraculous vision with the ceiling opening up and my mother in a white gown and wings leading a heavenly host of angels— all singing heavenly music.  No miraculous vision.  No vision at all, and no music.  Very softly and very faintly I heard my mother say, “You’re it!”

I laughed, and I cried.  What a simple non-miraculous sign!  What a wonderful sign!  What a comforting sign!

And through my laughter and tears I said, “That’s not fair, Ma. I can’t get out of this life.”

I could see my mother with her head high and her chest out feeling triumphant.  And then she stuck her tongue out.

The first thing I will do, once I get out of this life, is find my mother and resume our game of tag.  The second thing I will do is find a hobby or something else to do.  Eternity, after all, is a long time just to play tag.

Luv ya, Ma!


Minnie Johnston at 60(?) years.

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About the Author

I am Minnie and Chic's son.