Thursday, May 26, 2011

Last Wishes

“I am booking a condo at the beach, one big enough for all of us, with a view of the ocean, and an accessible path to the beach.” These words triggered the last argument my mom and I ever had. She was furious because she felt I didn’t understand that the chemo left her too weak to want to travel, that she wanted to recuperate in her own bed. Even more critically, she felt thought that my planning such a trip meant I doubted that she would ever get well. She needed desperately for me to believe that she would kick this pesky lung cancer the way she had recovered from breast cancer, as,I realize now, she was trying to convince herself of that very thing. She assured me that we could all go on vacation together “next summer, after I get better.”

She never got better, not long enough for us to go on a vacation together, anyway. Nor did she live to see the next summer. I confess that there’s a part of me that is still angry at her for that. Not only did she not want a special vacation, but she didn’t want to discuss anything related to her impending transition from this life. She didn’t want to discuss her finances, disposition of her assets, or even any parting words for her beloved grandchildren. She had no bucket list.

A good friend of mine advised me to honor her wishes and her timing. He said that everyone gets to the point of being ready to talk about these things; it’s just a lot later than sooner for some people.

Honor her wishes, I did. As best I could, anyway. With doctors and nurses whispering grave prognoses in one ear, and her angry words echoing in the other, I prayed for the best and prepared for The Talk. It never came. She never did get to that point of wanting to discuss her assets nor impart words of wisdom. I felt cheated. I felt I had done my part, and she had not done hers.

Fast forward two years. My dear friend and mentor entered his final phase of this life. As active in the community as he was, he was deeply private about his personal matters. I respected him deeply and so I resisted the urge to call and say, “can I come over to say good-bye?” It was wrenching. I wanted desperately to heal the wound I still nursed from my mother’s passing by sharing words of closure and passage with my friend. And yet I did not call, I did not drop by. I said prayers. I sent a card. And I honored his privacy.

Part of me wants to scream out in protest. “The end of this life isn’t just about you dying people! What about those of us continuing on? This is an ending for us, too, the end of a profound relationship. We have our own final wishes, our own needs for closure. ” I wonder: In honoring their wishes so meticulously did I let myself down in some way? Did I fail to honor the stirrings of my own heart, the whisperings of my spirit?

Then Love rushes in. When I remember how I loved my mother and my friend, when I allow myself to feel the vastness, the enormity, the all-encompassing nature of Love, there is no I.  I want only to honor, to give.  I want only what my beloveds want most for themselves. I want nothing more than to respect their final wishes. It is my final gift to them, indeed the only gift I have to offer.

“Love is patient and kind…..It does not insist on its own way…”

It occurs to me that I have not let myself down at all. I have let myself Love. And Love needs no closure.