My dear friend Margaret died exactly four months after I left her home in Prescott on Christmas Eve. 23 April 2015. I spoke with her on the phone several times during those weeks (she always ended with “Love you lots!”). And with John. And Marina. I’d spoken with John while I was in Arizona and let him know I would not be able to get back again, given what was already on my plate in terms of commitments and finances.
This was heartbreaking for me.
My parents died a long time ago. Twemty-eight years, in my mother’s case. I was so much younger then. And in this country I think we spend a lot of time trying to not think about death. Though when you get to be my age you think about it a little more. 🙂
I don’t want to be maudlin, but as I’ve declared this blog to be about having a “good” life (which is different for everyone, I think, though perhaps not as different as I imagine), I feel I should make one observation about an occasion such as this.
When someone you love is at the end of his or her life, there is very little you can do. The process cannot be stopped. And it is not a pretty process. It’s hard. There’s a lot of discomfort. But there are two things you can do: you can speak soft words of kindness and love, and you can touch your loved one with gentleness. Hold her hand. Blot her tears. Put a cool, damp cloth on her forehead, if that’s what’s called for.
That’s it: kind words and a gentle touch. Remember that.
I met Margie Raymer on my first day of high school; we shared a class, and ultimately a friendship that spanned decades and included our husbands and children. (You’ll recall Margaret traveled with me for a month in Ireland in September 2012.) I loved and admired many things about my friend, but chief among them were her kindness, her refusal to judge others, her generosity, her forward thinking, and her complete authenticity. Margaret left us after a two-year journey with a rare and aggressive cancer. During this time she was unfailingly upbeat and hopeful; she never complained. She and I talked some about death, which her strong faith taught her was simply a door through which she would pass to the next world. I grieve her passing. Good-bye, dear one—I’ll see you on the other side. Love you lots.