A week ago I showed up for a meeting in a different state, that was planned over a month before, to find that the person who was in charge of the agenda was missing. The reason for her absence was that she just found out her best friend has cancer, and her dear friend's diagnosis was delivered to her around the first anniversary of the death of her brother from the same awful disease.
Later that day, I was able to sit with my fellow non-profit director and listen to her tell the story of her friend's diagnosis, the heavy reality of the prognosis, and witness the stubborn look in her eye that said, "I will be there until the very end." I just sat in awe of the strength and grace that is required to be the last person standing....the one who will empty the bed pan; the one who will read or joke or sit quietly depending on what the mood calls for; the one who will give a pedicure, wash the hair, and brush the teeth of the person they love; the one who will relish the 'good' days and stay steady through the bad ones. What a priceless gift to give to your loved one, caregivers are heroes. I realized as we talked that I was not only looking at a person who was capable of this courage, but that I have become that person as well.
You see I literally watched my husband die, but I did not have a chance to nurse him or feed him or comfort him. In fact, up until a year ago I was almost sure he felt no pain when the car hit him. I believed his life was literally knocked out of him. But through the trial process I discovered that in the moments after his death one tear rolled down his cheek. I wish I knew what that tear meant, and more than anything I wish I could have been there to wipe it away. But that was not our course.
I have been asked countless times which is worse...to suffer a long good-bye or to get no good-bye at all. To be honest this question makes my stomach turn. Death is a personal tragedy, time and time again. Who am I to say what is more or less painful? People argue about this, because our logical minds want to make some sense of death, when there is none to be made. The eternal question of why will not be answered in this lifetime, nor will comparing one death to the next mitigate the pain of either party. Death sucks in every form and someone somewhere will be left reeling in its mighty wake each time a life ends.
So though I never uttered a good bye to my Phil, I know for sure that given the opportunity to say a long good-bye to someone I love in the future that I will not hesitate. I won't waste time wondering if I am strong enough, because I am. That crazy truth is another lesson learned through grief. I know the meaning of courage. I know the value of facing my fears. I know that avoiding the end won't avoid any of the pain of loss. I know that I will want to be the last person standing. Thanks for that strength grief, before I met you I didn't know I had it in me.