Archives for posts with tag: death

autumn leaves

I am feeling a little sad today. It usually happens at this time of year, just before autumn. I have noticed the light, shadows and length. The leaves are turning that deep green shade before erupting into colors. And, the vegetable garden is desperately pushing product despite much cooler temps this August. It’s a last hurrah before the transition into dormancy.

It also is the time of year that my best friend revealed to me that her cancer had returned. We sat on her couch holding hands and crying. It was the unspoken moment of knowing that her life on this planet was short.

I remember the afternoon light was less vivid for a summer’s day. The lace curtains, almost still, betrayed a periodic breeze. And, a dragonfly hovered close to the window screen. It is a moment that is firmly etched in my mind. We sat together like that for a long time. Words just failed us.

It has been ten years yet my sadness occurs with the persistence of the seasons. And, I still miss her.

We grew up together and she had the status of soul sister. We had families and lived close enough to share our lives. I always felt as if she would be there to listen, to care and to laugh. We joked about retiring together to a nursing home because our husbands would statistically predeceased us. We planned on sitting in rocking chairs, cats draped on our laps, we wearing shiny earrings and ill applied lipstick. It was supposed to be a long time away.

But, like most things in life, stuff happens but not as we have planned.

I recently visited with one of her daughters. She bears a remarkable resemblance to her mother. It was as if I was there with my dear friend, chatting and laughing.

It was bittersweet.

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North Bridge, Concord, MAThere comes a time when death becomes more friendly, almost embracing. My uncle was admitted to a hospice yesterday and doesn’t have much time remaining. The entire transition from being present in life to becoming unaware was a matter of weeks.

The hospice is a subdued environment with welcoming volunteers and medical staff. The gardens are meticulous. The prayer room a place of solitude and solace. There is a noticeable separation from the frantic and directed pace of the living to the quiet and unknowing world of those who are navigating that last journey.

My cousins sit and watch their father die. It’s not a well choreographed event. There are fits and starts. Long pauses of rest. The flat screen tv flickers images that sometime catch attention. It’s a process. An undetermined length of time. Ushering a family member into the next.

And, there are all the memories. The feelings of sorrow and guilt mixed with humor and pain. It’s life. His life. No one should die alone.

Because there is forgiveness. Forgiveness for life’s transgressions. For unpredictable events that shaped other people’s lives. For emotions that tore family ties.

Forgiveness lets you accept and move on with life. To be present with the dying. It’s the grace of being human.

I had a childhood friend who was more of a sister to me than my siblings. We weathered a parochial school education together; navigated the sometimes hilarious straits of dating; married men of questionable maturity; co-raised our girls; and then we parted. Death does that.

We had just clicked into our fifth decade chronologically. Life was transitioning for us both. By now divorced, I was looking for a job and college hunting with my daughter. My best friend was also planning for that inevitable empty nest too but she was still married with a younger child occupying her time. We would sit together having a “cuppa” tea or a glass of wine while projecting into the future about us. It came as a quick decision one afternoon. Since statistically her husband would likely predecease her, we should arrange to eventually retire together to some home for the elderly, matching rocking chairs, cats languishing in our laps, and wearing shiny clip-on earrings in our blue-tinted hair. It sounded delightful. So us.

But cancer came for her and stayed for just about two years. Time somehow extended the days despite the tears. She requested that I write her obituary and I accepted the assignment. One brilliant autumn afternoon as we sat on her couch, she asked if I believed in heaven. I said I did not. She was unsure. We didn’t dwell on that matter as she turned the conversation to the pergola she and her husband were building in the backyard. Always the optimist.

The wake was well attended. She was an amiable woman with an edgy sense of humor, well-known for her over-the-top entertaining style and masterful culinary skills. She wore bouclé jackets with jeans and pearls. And, as I bent down and kissed her forehead, I said “Good night and sleep tight”. You never say good-bye to dear friends.

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