It’s a gift to share someone’s journey towards death.
I was sitting outside eating a piece of toast at around 2:00 this morning.
The night is a private place. A current of air passed my cheek like a breath. The moisture falling through the trees touched my skin and hair. I sat in the sentient darkness, and I could hear the distant, restless murmur of the sea. The night was so still I could almost feel the beating of its heart.
Then I began to pick up other night sounds. A shuffling of feathers as a bird wakened briefly and settled itself again. A fruit bat snapping up the moths fluttering at the curtained window where I’d left the bedroom light on. Something rustled in the underbrush. Probably a raccoon eating the orange I’d cut up and put on a log by the compost.
I said goodbye to John yesterday. This morning he was transferred to a palliative care facility on the mainland. As I walked over to his house, I prayed that I would find the right words to say.
He was sleeping when I got there. I spent a couple of hours with him while he dozed. When he woke, he was immediately lucid. We talked, mostly about old movies and books, and he’d come up with a title or the name of a character while I was still groping around in what passes for my long-term memory.
His physical form is a shell, paper thin and almost translucent. It reminds me of my grandmother’s teacups that came from China. They are called bodiless ware or eggshell porcelain, and if you hold them up to the light, you can see through them.
Most of the time, John hovers between waking and sleeping. I see no signs of pain or struggle in his face. He lingers peacefully in that tenuous borderland where birth and death are scarcely a breath apart. Not a place of darkness but of light and continuous, joyous renewal.
It’s a gift to share someone’s journey towards death. To watch them move closer to the Source where all life begins and to which it returns. In the presence of such great mystery, I am filled with something that’s close to reverence.
John asks if I brought him a smoothie, and I take it out of the fridge. He wants to know what kind it is, and I tell him to guess.
He savours it with closed eyes imitating an oenologist. “Strawberry-mango,” he says.
“Bingo!” He never gets it wrong.
He tells me he wants chocolate in the next one. “Chocolate with raspberries.”
I promise him a chocolate-raspberry smoothie that there won’t be time to make. The ambulance is picking him up first thing in the morning.
I hear a car in the driveway. It’s time to say goodbye. I was hoping to come up with something deep and illuminating. “I love you,” I say, and it sounds about right.
“Love you,” John replies, and the thing has completed itself.
In the end, it’s love that matters. It’s what the Universe is made of and why we are here. To love and be loved. Without that, your net worth doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.
I kiss John’s forehead and whisper, “Safe journey.” He closes his eyes and smiles. I let go of his hand.
Walking home, I hear an osprey circling overhead. I hope that John can hear it too.