Thursday, April 2, 2009

Parting Thoughts

My youngest brother dated a young woman who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I never had the privilege to meet her, (and I do not even recall her name) but my brother was quite smitten with her and wanted to continue their relationship even after she discovered her illness.

For reasons of her own, however, she chose to end the relationship (I believe it was to spare my brother the pain of watching her die and then the pain of her death). Also, she still had hopes and dreams and things to do and she was determined to set about doing them. She said she had spoken to her grandmother and asked her what wisdom she could give her that she might use. And her grandmother said, "Make wonderful memories. When you are alone and tired, you will find happiness in remembering the memories you've made. In the end, that is all there is...the memories."

I used to date a man named Conrad. His life-long best friend was Gerry. Gerry was an odd little man, small, gaunt, wizened. He liked to smoke; he smoked a lot. He liked to drink; he drank a lot. He had never married, (never had a girlfriend to my knowledge). He ate pizza and submarine sandwiches ordered from the same shop virtually every day of his life. Conrad intervened in his friend's behalf, got Gerry into a rehab center, got him dried out. So Gerry got sober, stayed sober, but he still smoked.

Conrad and I had gone our separate ways; I hadn't seen him in about two years when I received an unexpected call about Gerry. Gerry had lung cancer and it had metastasized to his brain. Death was imminent. Could I please come and see Gerry (as Gerry had no friends outside of Conrad, and very little family). Of course, I would.

Once we arrived at the nursing home, Conrad was called away by medical staff, leaving me and Gerry alone. Gerry's eyes were sunken deep into his skull, but he still managed a grateful smile when he recognized me. He flipped his hand towards me and I reached over and held it.

"I'm afraid of dying," he whispered. "Don't tell Connie. It would upset him." I nodded. "He's been the best friend a person could ever have. We've been friends since we were little kids. Our mothers used to bath us in the sink together." He smiled, laughed at the memory, coughed. Again I nodded, tears swelling to the rim of my eyes. "Did you know I used to drink a lot?" Again the nod. "Connie got me sobered up. Took me to New Haven, came to see me every day, took care of everything. He even got me a second job, you know, so that I'd have something to do at night." His blue eyes, fogged with pain, looked into mine, suddenly looked sharp and bright. "Know what I think?" I shook my head, no. "I think I should've stayed drunk."

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