I was stunned one Saturday morning not long ago when I picked up the Sunpaper and there was the obituary of a very good friend of mine. Roberta came to work for the county about twenty years ago, and we wound up working on a lot of projects together. We made a good team because she was all policy by the rules and she followed directions to a T, and I brought to the table my knowledge of many people in many different departments and my knowledge of many jokes concerning visits to barrooms and medical offices.
So I knew she retired and moved to Virginia, where she lived in some sort of spiritual community. Before she moved, I helped her do a few things around the house to get it ready for sale. As a woman alone, she appreciated the fact that I owned a ladder and some tools and knew several different ways to mask an unsightly crack in the basement masonry. We stayed in touch while she was down in VA, and then about a year ago, we fell out of touch, and my messages went unanswered and her facebook page remained unvisited (by her).
What had happened was that she had come down with cancer, and apparently felt the way to close the curtain was to do so in quiet contemplation. She did not contact me at all, or leave word for others to do so (but someone directed me to the death listings that Saturday morning.) I'd never say it wasn't her right to close the door on an old friendship as the light faded within, but I surely wish she had seen fit to do otherwise.
Otherwise, a good friend of a great friend recently lost her husband to cancer. Amazingly, it took 22 days from diagnosis to the final chapter. 22 days. She hardly had time to turn around once he came down with that damned disease and it was time to plan for what they call the final arrangements.
And together, they did a tremendous thing. They held a living wake. All their friends were invited, and some 100 people came to their house to say goodbye to him. Five people at a time went into his bedroom, and with three days left on earth, he had a chance to greet them all, reminisce a bit, and bid a fond farewell. When the day was over, he felt as if he had just run a marathon, but imagine the memories he took with him to his reward, and imagine how much better his friends feel for having had the chance to be part of that goodbye.
While we're on thanatological topics, it brings to mind the phone call I got from the cemetery where my Dad is. I mean, this was like two weeks after his death and I was still a little ruffled by it all, and a guy is on my phone, cooing in my ear about how he wonders if I have "made any plans for my final destination." I got steamed and told him that his place would be the last place anyone would ever see me.
Hey. Wait a minute.