I have come to say goodbye to my friend, as she enters the hospice-phase of her cancer journey.
During the long six-hour drive to get here, my memory of our meeting came back to me, as though it was twenty days ago and not twenty years.
She is an artist and most of my memories over the years with her are punctuated with her work—drawings, for our (almost) card company, landed on t-shirts and long, narrow canvases, with the moon rising; illustrated children’s books and homemade games, when our kids were smaller.
In the midst of these memories, I well up with tears, wishing I had been a better friend.
I wish that I had looked for another way to reach her, when our lives pulled us in different directions; of all the friends I have known in my life, she is one of the very few who always loved me, unconditionally.
So, I arrived with healing gifts, wanting to say thank you for how she had loved me over the years—and to say that I was sorry for when I didn’t try to reach out.
As ever, through her glowing eyes, she said, earnestly, that she had never felt anything but love from me. There were no apologies for the years in between; they just were.
It was hard to see her beautiful, lithe frame transformed by her illness, into a body that was painful to inhabit. As I massaged her swollen legs, I remembered her doing the same for me, as we waited on the birth of my first child.
Last week, I was reacquainted with the mother of a child who went to preschool with my own.
Her face was familiar but it had been ten years since I had seen her and now, both of our kids were learning archery from the same coaches.
She recognized me immediately and said, “You gave my son his fourth birthday party—it was three weeks after his father died and I had just been diagnosed with MS. I couldn’t even go but he still remembers it at the barn.”
The birthday party, which I hadn’t thought about in years, came rushing back to me; I remember how much that little boy needed a birthday party and now ten years later, I was so happy that I gave it to him.
I have long believed that the moment of truth in life occurs in the last minutes of our consciousness and is always a reckoning of love—of who you loved and who loved you back. Yet, now I realize that love is reconciling in our life, all the way along.
We are all part of a great web, creating the moments of truth for each other. And, even in the spaces where we feel we have come up short, love is there; in the gifts that you give and have long forgotten, love is there.
It is easy to get lost in where we think our life is headed, caught up in the myriad of details and distractions that daily life presents, that we lose sight of the fact that we are all just brief travelers here.
As Rilke so beautifully described, it is within each other that “we see what our hopes were, that we are alive to the tender intervals in this perpetual departure.”
This is the real equation of life…and the moment of truth that is happening all around us, right now.
Editor: Bryonie Wise
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