Saturday, March 20, 2010

On the death of a friend

Funny how you know--and you don't know.

Last week I saw John in the Health Center, and he had a cold. He was on oxygen, and about 15 minutes into our visit, a technician came in to give him a breathing treatment.

"I'll see you later," I promised.

Well, other life events have been pressing, I told myself. I didn't get back until yesterday. To find a hospice chaplain there. John, 99, was asleep, almost waxy. The chaplain left and I sat awhile, but I didn't talk. I wish I had! But I sat with him awhile. I left a note, as I always do when he is asleep, so he will know I came,and a piece of dark chocolate, his favorite.

Yesterday was beautiful. High in the 70's, pear and wild plum blooming, fluffy clouds in a blue sky, japonica and daffodils blooming. Often, when I come, I insist on opening the blinds to let him see a beautiful day. I didn't yesterday. It seemed useless.

It was.

Today, I went over in the morning and walked to his room. I noticed yesterday he had a cross on his door, decoated by a school child and signed with her name. I looked at the decal on the center and read, "Hallelujah! He is risen!" and I knew. It was there yesterday,and he was there, but I knew. I looked around and saw another on another room. So only on the hospice rooms. And I knew.

I opened the door, and there was a pristine bed, with no personal artifacts. His clothes were still in the closet. Nothing else. An empty bed.

I went back down to the nurses' station, and two were there. They aren't there often, they are usually with the patients. They give not only professional care, but human caring. But they were there.

"John?" I asked. "he's gone?"

And knowing the answer, I began to cry.

Four o'clock this morning, they said.

I wanted to say, "But I didn't say goodbye!"

And that hurts.

When we met, July 3, 2008, I knew it would be a fairly short friendship, and if MY life was good, this day would come. And it has. I know his family is sad. His son came every day, and other family members frequently. He had only a few friends left. He outlived most of them. He had a remarkable life.

We laughed, and joked, and argued and discussed about three hours a week. Until recently, he had hubris, and vitality. He impacted my life.

I will miss him more than I thought I would. Today, I mourn. I cry. And who wants to die without one friend weeping? I am that friend.

Someday, I hope I am good enough that some friend weeps for me.


clairz said...

Charlotte, you have written a beautiful eulogy for your friend. It had to have helped you and I'm sure that it will help others who are dealing with loss.

How did Blogger know to use the word "weepin" for the word verification for my comment?

Omnibus Driver said...

Charlotte, it is so much more important that you said "hello" to him, over and over again than that you didn't get to say "good-bye." God bless you, and God speed to your friend.