House sparrows in the birdbath under the lilac trees

Last Wednesday, a week ago, I began looking for my friend.  I called her house, her cell. No response.   She has had a number of difficulties lately, all out of her control.  An on the job injury that will put her out of commission for work for months.  An infirm and now failing parent.  The other parent is currently being given a diagnosis.  Life is difficult.  Ever changing.  I knew things weren’t good.

I sent her a text message, offered to sit with her where her father was.  She was being strong, she didn’t call anyone to come sit with her that whole day.  It was about 7pm, I was going out the door to join her when she sent me a text, only with one word.  “Please” in reply to my query if she wanted me there.  I was on my way, I was just glad she responded favorably.  I knew she needed a friend.  Losing someone like that is so hard.  He didn’t go easily or quickly – but when he did go, she knew he was finally at peace.
When I got there, the staff was concerned and respectful.  My friend and I  sat.  We talked, we laughed.  We cried.  We call it being on death watch.  I have done it in the past.  Both my father and my husband were under hospice care at home until they passed away.  As the hours stretched out,  I noticed the little things.  And as my friend dozed near her dying father,  I stood watch over both of them and saw from a different perspective the things in that room.  Four beds in one room, three occupants.  One in the last bit of his life.  The other two snoring away.  Calming but sad.   A bulletin board above my friend’s dad’s  bed, covered with cards to him “GRANDPA! We love you SO much!   Christmas cards.  A rendition of Jesus and the trinity.  Family photos of the son who can’t be there with his kids.  My friend has taken care of each and every bit of her dads needs since a catastrophic stroke many years ago…then he had been in the convalescent home for a number of years.  She winced when I asked who the photos were of.  She focused on the fact that she never brought in photos of her or her son.  She was there frequently, she would bring her little dogs to visit the folks there when she saw her dad.   Her dad had lived with her and her son for something like  6 or 7 years post stroke.  I do not know how she did it.  Small child, full time job, disabled father.  That was long before we moved here and we became friends.  The convalescent home is here in our small town.  Now she felt bad there were no photos of her.   It was a dark time for her, but she never wavered in her commitment to helping him.  Bringing him a new stash of toothpaste.  A huge sub sandwich, and he would inhale the whole thing, always happily and contented.  He stopped being ambulatory some months ago, only the bony shell of the robust man he once was.  I never knew him before the stroke.  I only visited him there, and once, when my friend was out of town, brought him his sandwich 🙂   But that night, the last night he would see through, as he passed the next evening…..the only thing I could see in that room that last night – was my friend, with her  tremendous heart, quivering in the face of the inevitable – he would pass soon- she could not fix that.  We are fixers, the both of us.  Family first,  no matter what.  She did what was best for her dad and no one could have done better than she had done.  Her father, who she had known was gone, the frail being in the bed was a different person-not the vibrant man who had been so present for the first half of her life.  When we left at 4 a.m. that last morning, he had the rosary beads in his hand, a photo of her brother in his fingers.  He would flutter his eyelids occasionally, I don’t know if he was seeing or not.  My friend left the room, and as I went to follow her out, I stopped and said to him “thank you for giving me one of the greatest gifts in my life, your daughter is my best friend, and if not for you, I would never have known friendship like this.  Thank you.”  He passed 15 hours later, with his daughter at his side.  The service for him, a proud Veteran is tomorrow.  It may rain of course, but that doesn’t matter.  I will be there for her, as she was there all the time my husband was so ill and after he passed she helped pull me back into the land of the living.  Tenacious, stubborn, big hearted.  I am blessed to have her friendship.  That is why we are all here on this beautiful earth, to help each other in any way we can, I truly believe that.