Dale is dying. I saw him today in the hospice. Held his hand. Hugged his wife. Heard his friends speak.
My friend Scott invited me to come along. He has been visiting Dale most days and although I don’t know Dale well, I know many of his friends. I wanted to go. I didn’t want to go. Again that old friend Fear held me safely and told me I shouldn’t go. But the pushy friend Courage told me to do it.
I didn’t go for Dale. I didn’t go for Scott. I went for me. I admit it. I went for me.
It’s not that I enjoy seeing a dying man, or his wife and friends in such despair. I wanted to be there to face the hard stuff in life head on. To realize that to the people gathered around his bedside today, this man has shown them a better way of life. He has counseled many of them. He has talked them off of ledges and told them that if they hang on to hope, they will have a better life.
Yet, here he is… barely able to hang on to the hope. He’s lonely. He said so. It took him a while to get it out but he’s lonely in a way that none of us can relate to. He’s not taking anyone with him in death. He goes alone. And life outside those four walls of his room continues to happen. He’s lonely.
And it hurt to see that. It hurt like hell. It hurt so much that I had to write here. I had to get it out.. because I don’t like feeling the pain. I am grateful for the feeling, but I really do not like pain. So I write because if I don’t write, I might drink – a lot, or spend money that I don’t have, or call people I shouldn’t call or I might not eat for a couple days because at least I can control that. Besides how can I put food into my body after watching this man wasting away?
None of the above pain-killers should be options. Yet I can choose to make any one of the unhealthy vices an option. I can choose to drink if I want. I can choose to shop. I can choose to call an old boyfriend. I can choose to starve. But there’s tomorrow. And tomorrow I don’t want to be hungover, broke, guilty or hungry. Those are bad places for this girl to be. Any of those avenues only leads to more despair.
I’m on the right path though. I have called a couple friends and I have prayed meager prayers for help. I have walked right past all of the wine bottles at Trader Joe’s and I have some sushi waiting for me in the kitchen. Oh, and I have no more plans to call an old boyfriend. Instead I took the risk to call my husband on a busy day and although he didn’t have much time to chat, I was able to hear his voice, tell him how I felt and was reminded that this is the man I love. Even when it hurts to love him because there’s always a risk of losing him to his disease or possibly even abandonment, he’s the one I love and I want to stay right here with him. So the old crazy calling won’t be happening today either.
My heart still hurts but I take a breath now and do the next right thing, which is to grab my sushi, head to the car, pick up my boys from school and focus on their needs. Because that is what I am meant to do on this day and in this moment. I can put my aching heart aside for just this time and focus on them and when all is quiet and I get inside my head again, I can choose to make more right decisions. And I believe that when I do that, the aching heart will produce sweet tears that are ready to find their way out of my body and into the hands of God where they belong.