The Trip of a Lifetime

This is just my personal insights, my observations. No PhD involved. I have no reason to know these things might be universal to all when they find themselves in one of those end of life and coming-to-terms type situations, but just in case it helps, here goes…

One of the first things I recognized about my husband being terminally ill was how terribly isolated this made him. We could watch television together. I could comb his hair, brush his teeth, or even just sit and hold his hand. We were a couple who shared almost every nuance of this thing we call living. But his death, his stepping across into eternity was something he had to do, utterly alone. This bothered me.

This upcoming separation from everything he’d ever known or loved worried me so much I began to think of ways to participate in some capacity in the inevitable journey to the ever-nearing place where that final goodbye really would be something he’d have to experience… without anyone.

Being a person of “words” these became my tools-of-choice for entering those quiet places in his fears. Words became my vehicle to participate. It helped that by then I’d already had one of those white-light experiences myself. As they say I guess there really is no such thing as coincidences. So one day I just started talking to him about how it had felt being inside that light. It was, by the way, the most wonderful physical experience I have ever had take place. Inside that light I felt more alive, more healthy, more perfect than I’d ever been. And, the closer I progressed toward the source of that light the better I felt all over.

I noticed immediately as I ventured into this conversation with him, for the first time since being diagnosed… his smile actually made it all the way up to his eyes. His sheer relief to be able to share, explore and anticipate his upcoming moment was almost palpable. I could see a weariness drop away from him in a way I couldn’t have anticipated.

Thinking about it, though, the penny dropped. Of course. When any of us are preparing to go on an exciting new “once in a lifetime” adventure we are anxious to talk about it with our friends and loved ones. We want to learn everything we can about the journey we’ll be undertaking. Of course. Of course. Amazing how seldom this is something we ever think about when dealing with the letting go of a loved one. I suppose it isn’t entirely our fault. There are tutorials, certifications, even academic degrees for dang near everything. Yet not one course on the art of dying. Here it is, the one thing we are all sure to do, all certain to face with people we care the most about and not anything to prepare us for the trip. Nope. There’s no travel-guide for what is an only, and a last, farewell.

I found my husband loved talking about heaven, what people said about it, what the bible reveals about it, where might it be, what might it be like, would we know each other there. He was interested in life and its eternal nature. What about this rapture thing? What was it Jesus had last said from the cross, “I commend my spirit into thine hands.”

Suddenly I wasn’t living with a solemn dying man trying to bravely face a sad reality. I was working hand-in-hand with a man on a mission. A mission of excitement and happy expectation as he readied himself for that glorious day he was finally, blessedly, going home. Home, that wonderful place where, yes, they really do all know your name. They have it written there, we learned, right there in that book of life.

Dying was no longer his, loss, or the loss of him. Dying was his gain. It became for us the place of our expected reunion someday. He is actually up there now saving me a place by the window. He said he would and I believe him.

I wondered a little how he felt when his family, parents, siblings, etc would come to visit and they would all have those brave little smiles held firmly in place as they prattled about the this or that of anything mundane enough to steer themselves carefully away from anything to do with the reality of his dire prognosis. I’m not faulting them. As I’ve said, there isn’t any rule book. Bless them.

He had such a wonderful sense of humor though. Oh my. After one of their really heart wrenching visits very near the end he called me over to sit by him. As I settled in he whispered, which is all he could muster by then, “Do you think they know?” That little twinkle in his eye made me a tad suspicious. I asked, “Do they know what? I don’t know what you mean.” The twinkle got brighter as he replied, “They all look so stoic with those forced smiles and hidden tears. Do you think we should tell them I’m dying?” Ah silly man. I laughed with him and assured him, they “do” know. This is just how they thought it was done. I told him I wasn’t sure death’s door was the ideal place for him to hold remedial training on the topic. He twinkled some more and said, “Maybe I should just change my will and leave them each.. an Emmy.”

Ah me. My point in writing this I suppose is while we all might say I wish I could have said goodbye, we really seldom, do. This long-goodbye as my husband let me share in the increasing anticipation of what lay ahead of him was so much more of a blessing to me, to us both I think, more than any hand-holding or strong-smiles or hidden-tears, could have ever been.

And there is always now that place I know about for me that place with him the one by the window. A window where everybody knows our names.

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