Saying goodbye.


“Are you prepared?”
Hard to say, I thought. I ask questions on what to expect and can I truly prepare for the last time I may see a person alive?

A family friend has pancreatic cancer and he may only have days left on this earth.  In a matter of weeks, his wife has had to accept this process of losing, of caretaking, of grieving while savoring these moments.
There is weight and significance in this visit.

There’s a feeling in the room when we get there that’s communal, sacred, holding space. Long term friends are there, there to say goodbye to him, and to support her.

We go in to see him. He’s lying in a hospital bed facing an open door looking out into the back yard. There are lilac bushes, and our friends tell me there have been hummingbirds, nearly the first of the season. 

I give him a hug. His arms are skinny, his face more narrow than when I saw him last. We exchange good to see yous. His voice is raspy, barely above a whisper. He gets tired easily, can only visit for a few minutes at a time. In his wakeful moments today he seems lucid, although it takes him effort to communicate.

He still loves jokes. He tells one about Dennis the Menace growing up to be Donald Trump, Several people get on their iPhones to search for jokes to tell him. A joke about current politics, a joke about language. I can see his eyes light up, his appreciation for the funny and entertaining coming to the surface for a moment.

He radiates a kind of light, almost an ethereal quality. He seems like he is retreating and yet it’s like there is this fullness around him. His energy, other energies, holding him, waiting.

We leave him alone to eat dinner. He has stopped eating and is repulsed by the mention of food. We, the visitors, exchange words, and we’re somehow less of strangers due to the nature of the situation.  There’s a certain kind of intimacy we share because we’re there to be there with them as death comes closer.

Before we leave, we say goodbye to our friend. My dad says, “Until we meet again,” and I simply say “Thank you.” I put my hands on my heart, and he does the same.

My thank you contains more than the two words I say out loud: Thank you for being the one who finds random things funny, who seems to find joy so easily in the present moment. Thank you for the way you have lived life.


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