“How do you let yourself be that honest?”

Consider the daffodil... by [ r ♥ c e y t ♥ y ] {I brake for bokeh}

March holds a special meaning for me as this was the month of both the birth and the death of one of my best friends, and I’ve just gone back and relived the last days of his life.  I wrote this story and thought I’d share it with you.  I hope it touches you as it touched me.

He’d been sick for awhile now, losing weight and fading into that hollowness that seems to precede the end.  It was in the mid-90’s, after we’d sort of gotten used to the idea of AIDS, but before new medicines really helped us turn the corner away from so many deaths.  I’d already said goodbye too many times, yet I knew one more was coming.  And I knew this time would be different.

We lived side-by-side in a duplex, so I saw him every day and was keenly aware not only of his physical changes but his spiritual ones, as well.  He didn’t want to talk as much, and I was never really sure if he was thinking or just existing.

On a morning I will never forget, I was lying in bed not quite awake and not quite ready to get up and start my day, when it felt like he came and stood beside me.  Of course, it wasn’t really him, except in the sense that perhaps the spirit is more real than the body anyway.  And he just looked at me and said, “What you’re going to do, you need to do soon.”

What could he have meant?  I struggled with it all day and talked to a co-worker about the experience.  Ultimately, I came to realize that it meant I had to talk to him about dying.  But how do you do that?  How do you let yourself be that honest?

After work, somehow I got up the courage to go in and see him.  He was lying there, silent and still, and when I said I needed to talk to him, either his eyes or his mouth said, “I know.”  I told him about the morning vision, and let the conversation (one-sided though most of it was) drift into thoughts about the end of his life.   Was he ready to go, I asked?  Was he at peace with his family, with himself, and with his God?  It was an emotionally difficult hour, but I don’t know when I’ve had a more important and real dialogue.

It was just a couple of days later that I knew I had to take him to his doctor.  He wanted to ride in his new truck, this tangible thing that somehow made him feel differently about himself, and feel – I suppose – a connection to the life he knew he was losing.  The doctor examined him and then came to see me in the hallway.  She said he had a form of pneumonia, and that I needed to take him to the hospital and call his family.  She didn’t think he had much longer.

We went back out to the truck and he asked me to turn the heat up and just drive around so he could get warm.  After a bit he asked, “Would you drive me back by the house?”  You’d have to understand how much he loved his home to realize the significance of this request, especially his garden, and how much care he took with it.  I think the time he got the neighborhood’s “Yard of the Month” award was one of the proudest of his life.

We pulled up to the curb and sat there a minute.  “You’re thinking that this is the last time you’ll see it, aren’t you?”  His slight nod told me all I needed to know.  We drove to the hospital after a few minutes, and I went home to call his sister.  “You need to make plans to come and see him,” I said.  “The doctor doesn’t feel he’ll last much longer.”  And he didn’t.

He never did see his house again or gaze on the flowers so meticulously planted and cared for.  He didn’t have another ride in his truck or experience another day in the sunshine.  But he had those moments and those memories to take with him, and when he finally left us, I’m convinced he was at peace.


By Mark Davis
from Atlanta, Georgia.
Kindly contributed to Zen Moments by the author.

Photo: Consider the daffodil… by [ r ♥ c e y t ♥ y ] {I brake for bokeh}


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