Life Topics

Hard to Say Goodbye

You died on a Monday.  I saw you that morning struggling to breath.  I’m so thankful to have given you a kiss as you slept.  The last kiss I would ever give you.  Oh, how many times had we kissed and embraced?  You were so tired and working so hard to breath like your body couldn’t do it any longer. I hugged your wife not only because I care about her, but because I couldn’t hold you.  She understood as I whispered “I love you” to her.  She always showed strength and grace through your illness personifying love and hope.  Her pain will never go away.  But your pain is gone now and for that I am relieved.   I had hoped you would quietly slip away, and you did.  God Damn it!  I wanted you to stay forever.

The last visit before you left, I asked you if you remembered the time I was walking the dog, and you came out and offered me wine.  Of course, I said yes, so you grabbed a couple of glasses of red wine and we sat on the front stone wall and sipped and talked on a glorious sunny Spring day.  People slowed down to watch us “day drinkers” having a ball laughing and talking.  Pretty soon other neighbors came over and we all chatted.  I liked how you quietly laughed when you said you remembered. It filled my heart.  It was our moment in the sun.

One day, you called me when I was sitting on the beach and thanked me for what I wrote about you on my blog.  There were a few people on the beach, as it was early, and they just watched me sob into my cell phone.  We were both crying.  All of your time was borrowed, and we knew it.  You were so strong and positive while you took your time saying goodbye.  I would have been a mess.  But, not you!  As I hung up, I looked at the horizon meeting the ocean, and drank in the soothing woosh of the waves as they hit shore.  I wiped away the last of my tears and realized that you were one of a few people in the world who know me, who really know me and for that I am grateful and comforted.

Everyone will miss you, especially me.  We stole looks and gestures when we were in each other’s company.  Always connected in some small way.  I know you will continue to be there when I’m looking for you.  In a corner sipping some fancy Italian drink or standing next to your wife always to support her.  We will always watch over your wife.  I promise.  Your spirit will never leave our little community, our little lives that we are forced to carry on without your grace.  I toast to your generosity, love and joy that you gifted so many.  Cheers.

You are a once in a lifetime friend.  True friends that I can only count on one hand.  You were not just a friend though, you were a mother, a wife, a neighbor, a confidant and a caregiver.  My heart breaks with you gone now.  Please carry me with you wherever you are.  Let the others who have passed know that I think of them often too.  I can only hope to laugh at our memories some day when the thought of you will bring a smile, not a tear.  You will live on in my heart until I take my last breath, and we once again sip red wine in the sunshine.

Life Topics

Putting Charlie to Rest

iStock_000058582528_LargeWe put Charlie to rest today.  It was a small funeral with a handful of family members and Mom and Dad.  His box of ashes sat in front of us as soldiers went through the honor ceremony.  We blessed ourselves through prayers while the wind lashed out at us.  My middle-aged graying cousins, who I hardly knew, stood with us as the grieving do, but there was no crying, no sorrow.  In fact, no one really knew Charlie.

Charlie was 88 years old when he died last week.  Dad found him when he went to check on him.  Charlie was a brother and an uncle, never a husband or a father, and he was barely that as he kept to himself, afraid of human contact.  Dad is the baby of the family, and at 80 years old himself, was Charlie’s main caretaker.  Anxiety ruled Charlie’s world.  He was a recluse because of his fear of people, and would only go out to doctor’s appointments.  Other than that, he would sit in his chair, in his apartment, in his building and reject the world outside.    He spent most of his life living with his other bachelor brother Chris, who also cared little to socialize.  But, at least Chris would be the life of the party when he did go out.  They bickered constantly.   Charlie was like an old cat lady, without cats, wearing tattered clothes and talking to himself.  Chris died a few years back, and Charlie was left alone, which was probably how he preferred it.

People didn’t visit Charlie, and he liked it that way.  He would occasionally call my Dad and always say, “hello this is Charlie from Wareham”, which my brothers and sister found amusing.  So, we never called him Uncle Charlie, we would always say, “so, how is Charlie from Wareham doing?”  We did see him more when he spent some time living with my parents.  He had his routines that drove my mother up a wall, but not my Dad.  He had a severe lack of hygiene, as well as being nearly deaf.  He would painfully try to engage us, but would never hear the answer and would refer to my sister and I as Ann or Joan.  Our names are Susan and Jo.  He would go back to drinking his tea once the ill-fated conversation was over.

When I spoke to my cousin’s before the funeral, there was a consistent theme.  While they all felt sorry that Charlie was gone, they each said, “I hardly knew him, but I’m here for your Dad.”  I guess that’s what funerals are all about, being there for the people who are most effected by the death.  Prepared or not, it’s got to hurt on some level.  My Dad has always been loyal to his family, even when they weren’t loyal back.  It didn’t matter to him.  Because having an open heart, enjoying people, having contact is the right way to be.  There will surely be a lot of tears at my father’s funeral, and everyone will have known him well.

So, why do we say the dead are at “rest”.    I think everyone needs rest from this crazy world, but the ones who really need the rest are blessing themselves in the wind and holding back the tears.

Rest easy Dad.