Elizabeth Finley is 92 and lives in a retirement home. She’s rests quietly in her bed in pink satin pajamas, with a smile and tubes in her nose feeding her oxygen. A couple days ago, facing eminent heart failure, she was asked about what kind of celebration of life she wanted after she was gone. I believe she said softly, “I want a cocktail party. Now, not later!” So for the last hours of her life her family and friends have been pouring into her small apartment for cocktails, food, laughter and conversation. “One younger man,” she said, a musician I have followed, brought me flowers and leaned over and kissed me.” There was delight in her whispers.
I have known Betty, through my wife, for many years. She is our daughter’s God Mother. Every time I have ever encountered her she has been upbeat, dressed beautifully, and often spoke with a little secret in her voice and mischief in her eyes. She is elegant and interesting and tells a fine story. I was told by reliable sources that when she first came to the retirement center there were a slew of suitors knocking on her door. The nurses and assistants say every one just started calling her “Queen Elizebeth.” One nurse remarked, to me “Everyone loves her here. She is great fun and a fighter.”
I have often thought of what my last dying thoughts might me. So I asked Betty what she was thinking. “Oh.” she said. ” I was just thinking about my first boy friend. His name was John.”
I am sure there will be another celebration of Elizabeth Finley’s life, and when there is, many will remember the cocktail party she threw, just before she left town.