“I asked Liz to marry me,” my older son David says on the phone. I hear the drone of engine noise, so I know he’s driving home from a weekend trip.
“What did she say?” I tease, already knowing the answer from the joy in his voice.
“She said yes,” David laughs.
“Yes, yes,” I squeal breathlessly. “What could be better than yes?”
What could be better news than the engagement of these two open-eyed and open-hearted lovers who have known each other nearly two years? I sigh with happiness. Liz and David match. They generously provide for each other, laugh and work together, and help each other through sorrow and disappointment. “I’ll talk to Liz about that,” David tells me when he is concerned about something. “David will be able to help with that,” Liz says as she works through a problem.
Just a few hours before David’s phone call, I sat beside my friend Richard. He lay in a hospital bed wearing a rumpled Trumansburg Fire Department t-shirt, his hair tousled by wind from an open window, his eyes half-mast. He had just stopped breathing after 2 ½ years of illness. Richard’s wife Barbara, son Peter, daughter Anna, and son-in-law Ian moved in and out of the room or sat near the bed, gently touching one another while they held the quiet mystery tinged with disbelief. I felt the thin veil between life and death, here and gone, that I felt when my husband Vic died.
The day before, I had been with Richard and his family for hours, meditating on breath, Richard’s breath. He was peaceful when he wasn’t hiccuping. Richard’s family, another close friend, and I waited in long silences for his next inhalation—20 seconds, 30 seconds, over 40, then back to 30 by early evening. Henry the dog stuck close by and the family cats wandered through the yard and house. We waited. Shhh… in, in, in, down, he’s going. He’s going… Until Richard tossed his head back, sighed, and breathed, once, twice, or three times. Then more waiting, falling into the quiet space after his exhalations, hoping to hear his sigh one more time, praying he would find the right moment to let go.
As the sun set, Richard whispered, “Pull up,” and his family helped him sit upright. Then he wanted to go outside, so they lifted him into his wheelchair and wheeled him to the back porch. Supported by quiet love and strong hands, he saw the evening sky one last time. Blessings to you, Richard.
And blessings to you, David and Liz. May you love each other a long long time. It’s all so brief, this life, the good times and the hard times. It’s all so precious. Love one another. Live. Thrive.
Have you experienced the juxtaposition of loss and new beginnings? You might be interested in blogs I’ve written about bereavement and end of life and family and friends. For other articles on love and loss, see bereavement.