Saturday, December 20, 2014

Are You Still Sad?

My good friend died – how long has it been now – about ten days ago.

Someone asked me if I was still sad.

I didn’t know there was a time limit.

I don’t think I answered. If I had I would have said ‘not all the time’.

For obvious reasons I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately.

One of the things that people say is that death is just part of life. I know what they mean but it doesn’t really make sense. And then it does. As in winter is just part of the year.

And I have been privy to several deaths. My sister-in-law’s three years ago. My good friend. And (at various physical distances) my mother’s, my father’s, my grandparents, other friends. And at greater emotional distances: John F. Kennedy, George Solti, Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy. And the hundreds/thousands who die in wars. And hundreds of blacks from police or other violence. And the Ebola victims.

No. I’m not going to name them all. I can’t name them all. But they all contributed in some way to my world, to my understanding of the world, to my understanding of myself.

This is the Solstice eve, the eve of the longest night in the northern hemisphere.

I think it’s okay to dwell on death in this darkness.

And to remember that the light always comes back – however slowly, it returns and we bloom again.

And it’s okay to be sad because people we loved and/or admired are no longer with us. [Except that they are part of us.]

So, yes, I’m still sad some of the time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Another Holy Night

I have a neighbor friend, Judy, who has been the one I go talk to when I need to go talk to someone. She went into the hospital Nov. 17 and came home on hospice Nov. 19. Her older son flew in from Rochester, New York (he had to return home on Dec. 2) and her younger son lives about half an hour away.

At Judy's request I staged an early (potluck) Thanksgiving on Nov. 25 for 10 members of her family. At Judy's request, the tree was up (her sons did that for me) and everyone who came put an ornament on. When they wheeled her into my living room, her whole being lighted up.

Since then, I've been visiting her almost every day. I didn’t really want to visit her yesterday. I was tired. And it was hard to see her fail … and to watch Eldon, her husband of more than 50 years, see her fail. But I went.

There were other people there—a couple. I could immediately see that Judy was much worse – unresponsive. The couple said they were expecting the hospice musician. (I didn't know there were hospice musicians but it's a great idea). They left when the musician arrived. Eldon and their local son, Star, arrived almost simultaneously.

Once Eldon found an extension cord, the musician (I believe her name was Jungshea) set up her Casio keyboard and tablet and asked what Judy might like to hear. None of us could think of anything. The musician played something somber and we struggled to remember happier songs. I think we came up with The Tennessee Waltz, Green Sleeves, Deck the Halls, Country Road, and She’ll Be Coming ‘round the Mountain When She Comes. Oh, and Ode to Joy by Beethoven. We were in their bedroom – Eldon sitting next to Judy’s hospital bed, stroking her hair, Star in a chair at the doorway, me on their bed. Their cat wandered around the doorway every once in awhile.

I could see and feel the love in Eldon’s touch and Star’s focused attention and the compassion in the musician’s face. Love permeated the room. It felt holy.

When the session was over, I walked the musician and her Casio to her car and walked home.

Judy died last night. I wouldn’t have missed a minute of her last days. And will be forever grateful that I sat in on a portion of her holy night.