“On the home stretch.”
Paul wrote this to the doctor. “On the home stretch.” These words have a particularly poignancy when written by your dying spouse.
I wonder what he imagines “home” to be.
I’ve been thinking about the vanishing point in art. A road or path, stream maybe, that goes off into the distance will eventually seem to vanish. We know that it’s just perspective, that if we were to walk the path or the bank of that stream, that point would keep moving because the road goes ever on and on. We, stopped where we are, just can’t see it anymore. I imagine death being that point. The path, and Paul, will go on but we will be stopped here in this earthly place unable to see beyond the place of vanishing. But others will be there waiting. Paul’s mom and grandparents, his good friend Greg Johnson.
We all know how this is going to end but it’s hard to fathom. And it will be harder when we go home without him. Already, before we even came to hospice, I missed saying good-bye. It was a ritual for Paul. Whenever I went out, even if I had already gone to wherever he was in the house and kissed him good-bye, he’d come to the door, kiss me again and stand there while I waited for the elevator. Whether I was going to work for the day or to yoga class for an hour, he said good-bye at the door.
Paul had a ritual with Finn too. After Finn left, Paul would stand at the window and wait the few minutes it would take Finn to make it down the elevator or stairs and out the front door. As Finn hit the drive Paul would wave from the window and Finn would turn and wave back. They did this long past even high school, until Paul was in too much pain to move from the couch.
Paul was not just like that with us. As the assistant manager of our high rise for many years, Paul paid attention. He knew everyone by name, suite number and often what car they drove. He helped people out. I used to tell him that he was like the pastor to the people of Vista Royale. We have neighbours from many different places and he made it a point of learning how to greet people in their own language of origin.
Late in October I went to a retreat at IslandWood, a beautiful centre on Bainbridge Island near Seattle. It was a special time of discernment and retreat with the Center for Courage and Renewal. One morning as we were talking about mentors I had this realization that Paul has been one of my greatest mentors. I learned so much from him. He taught me to not take things so seriously. He taught me patience, although I may not have been a good student of that. He taught me perseverance.
Most of all he taught me love. Every day when I left the house and he walked me to the door to kiss me good-bye, I knew I was loved. Just that. Everything else, all of the ways that he took care of us - laundry and meals and dishes and knowing what we needed and finding things we lost - reinforced what I knew when he stood at the door. He taught me how to be a loving presence by standing at the door as the elevator came.
We can only watch as Paul will take the final steps to the vanishing point. We cannot go past the door to this world yet. But we’ve kissed good-bye and will wait with him while the elevator comes.
Previous Paul posts
Care taking and care giving
Sow's ear purse
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