I was at the Hospicare residence to see my sick friend Martha Cohen. She was asleep so I talked with her sister a while. Before leaving, I touched Martha’s hand. She opened her eyes and beamed a smile at me, the familiar smile I’d known for many years. Her eyes fluttered shut and she returned to the liminal world where she spent most of her time. The shadow of that welcoming smile remained on her lips.
After sitting in silence, I walked down the hall toward the exit. I glanced into the room next door to Martha’s and saw another friend, a writer I’d known for years, but at a distance. I knew she was sick, but did not know she was dying. An exhalation of relief followed the sharp shock of recognition. Good, she’s where she will get the best care and help.
“Hello. I’m glad to see you,” I said as I stood at the doorway. She glanced up and waved me toward her in slow motion. She was in a recliner, her face pale and drawn, her cheek bones pressed against her skin.
“May I hold your hand?” I asked as I sat on the hospital bed beside her.
“Yes,” she said with a thin but welcoming smile. She whispered something. I moved my ear close to her mouth, struggling to catch her wispy words.
“It’s easier for my husband with me here,” she said.
I held her hand and waited.
“I’m adjusting,” she said.
“Get my folder,” she said to her husband, gesturing toward a bedside table. She opened the manila folder and handed me a heart-opening poem about facing mortality.
“I have only one regret,” she whispered. “I did not get my writing together so it could be preserved.” I said nothing, but squeezed her hand.
The day before, I had talked with Larson Publications. I was grateful they wanted to publish my memoir. I had faith in my book, but I doubted myself. Could I do what’s needed to present a book to the world? Did I want to leave my quiet country life and travel to give talks and workshops? Could I promote the book with equanimity and curiosity rather than stress and anxiety?
My friend’s words were a clear message. I needed a beautiful book to hold in my hands and offer others. I needed to say yes to honor my marriage, my love, myself, and my spiritual journey through grief. I needed to say yes to the challenges of stepping more fully into my new life.
“Do it, Elaine,” I muttered to myself as I left Hospicare. “You won’t be sorry.”
When did you choose a path that demanded a stretch? Are you glad you tried, no matter what the outcome? If you’d like to learn more about my book Leaning Into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief (Oct. 2014, Larson Publications). I hope you’ll also enjoy this new article “Healing Rituals Help a Grieving Family” found at Grief Healing: Voices of Experience.