Sharing our Precious Dialogue Suppertime, Christmas Eve, 6 -7:45 pm Dec 24, 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
I asked Francis if I could share with you this treasured conversation we had on Christmas Eve and he agreed.
Francis had slept ALL day on December 24 except to surface briefly for breakfast and lunch. At suppertime, he looked weaker I thought, observing the effort it took him even with my help to sit fully upright leaning on the hospital bed's 45 degree incline.
I sensed it was a special moment because of the way he looked at me. He seemed physically fragile, or somehow more spiritualized.
I noticed he was pausing before eating, and sure enough, on his own he started to sing "Havlan lachma..." It's the Aramaic for "Give us this day our daily bread" which we and those who chant the Lord's Prayer use as a grace before meals. I immediately joined in, so pleased he had initiated this meal prayer chant!
Then I was very surprised to hear him sing again! Why would he sing again? And it was not the words themselves of our favorite Beatitude, but its refrain that Dr Neil Douglas-Klotz the Aramaic scholar who created the chant added that he was singing: "Allaha, Allaha Allaha, Allaha, Allaha..." (And that goes on for 20 Allahas!)
Oh my God, I thought, swelling with joy to see and hear this! Then we launched together into the Beatitude proper: "Tubwayun layleyn..." with again its 20 "Allahas," I, the whole while doubly delighted at the living love for God in his heart. "Allaha" gave him the words to express it in song!
Then Francis told me he had had a dream, and how, in his dream, he had awakened in the morning to see his obituary in the paper.
"And I was glad!" he added.
"Why glad?" I asked.
"Glad it was over," he didn't hesitate to admit.
"Are you afraid?" I asked.
"What comes up?" I probed.
"The unknown?" I pressed."
Then he recalled what I had told him the day before, -- that Jim Lovejoy had emailed saying he had put up a poster in his office reading, "Let go, let God."
"That is THE task," he said emphatically. "That quote helps me! I had never reflected on it seriously before. Everything is involved in that....So the dialogue we're having right now is helpful, helpful to me...Because the two of us know I'm in that process. Other people don't necessarily know. But you know, and by dialoguing you're helping me to bring it forth. "
"You can let go anytime," I volunteered. "Are you wanting to hang on?"
"I suppose, yes, in a way. I'm wanting to hang on wondering what's going to happen to you with finances."
"Do you realistically think I'm at risk?"
With tears in his eyes, -- "Yes and no. It's there. But it's good to talk about it."
Then I told him that his concern reminded me about my mother's asking before she died: "Who's going to take care of you when I'm gone?" I compared her worry, motivated by her unconditional love of me, to his: "What's at issue here is your love for me, and your instinct to protect me," I reasoned, "more than a justified fear."
"This is a very valuable dinner conversation we're having," he said with some kind of obvious relief. "Most people don't have this. A lot of people when they're dying, they don't have this. It's very helpful to me. It all came from your asking me about my fears. We don't need to go into specifics. It's just helpful we're talking about it. Because we've had this dialogue, it's worth it....It's valuable for me to be with you, to express my fear. It helps me to let go a little bit.....I'm not thinking in terms of anything immediate, tonight or tomorrow. I'm just expressing an example of that whole process of letting go...We're talking totally honestly, and it's very helpful to me."
"Its just the fact we had this dialogue. It's just a step in the process of my effort to let go, my effort to be free, just one step in letting go....Sure, there'll be other steps....It's very wonderful! But you take what's given to you. You take the insights, the little gifts along the way...."
He continued, -- " 'Let go, let God' sounds like a cliche. I had never thought about it before. But -- huh! " (and he made a face showing something very difficult.)
"Those things just surface," he continued.
"When do they surface?" I asked.
"During the night, some time today. (He "slept" all day!) Gradually they surface and make themselves known. It's just a matter of bubbling up. It would be strange if it didn't happen. We've been so open about this whole situation we're in, that presents itself in different insights, gradually,...you'd expect that....Like the guy said (He was referring to what Dr. Ken Hamilton who started H.O.P.E. had told Francis a few weeks ago -- ) 'You work on these things (meaning writing one's obituary and taking care of final preparations) and then you get on with your life.' Now we can get on with our lives.....Yeah!....Okay!"
"Do you feel a burden lifted?" I asked.
"Yeah, sure. Yeah!"
He took a deep breath and added - "What's the meal?"
Then Francis told me he had forgotten to tell me the whole of his dream, -- "In my dream, passing away was painless. I just slipped away in my sleep, and then said to myself 'Oh! That was nothing!'"
At this point I offered Francis one of Francesco Sanfilippo's soft ginger cookies. "Oh, wow! I just got the smell of them! Mmmmmm, (he said smiling) Tell Francesco that I swooned with delight....So Francesco gets top billing tonight!"
His eyes closed, he seemed to be sucking on the cookie.
I was watching him, noticing his jaws chewing the cookie. As he was savoring the cookie, I was savoring every precious moment of being in Francis' presence, the presence I had been partially deprived of since he had slept all day. I was savoring his presence, my whole attention held by him, watching him, aware how rich the silence was, and what depth was in this precious moment together.
His eyes were closed, and then he looked at me with a warm direct smile.
"I wonder about the consistency of these cookies," he added. "Which do I prefer? Francesco's soft one? Or Susan's crisp one? For me, for immediate sensation, it's the softer one. But for longer term, Susan's ginger cookie hangs more in your mouth. The consistency of hers has longevity in it, though the flavor of both of them isn't a great deal different."
Then, after I invited him to have a biscotti and offered him a bit of the goat cheese Dr. Ann Lemire had brought, both of which he reveled in, he said:
"I've been very well served,...it's very enjoyable. We've had a very satisfying repast. Your presence was deeply drawn into my soul, and so I am very happy. Those things just come like a gift! The whole thing just pulled together. It made for the nourishment of my whole being. It came to us from God. It was so important for me, for that single step I needed to take: 'Let go, let God.' There are many steps, but I took a step in that direction now. I need to feel that very strongly, -- that feeling of letting go. It's a step in that direction."
"Is it comforting for you?" I asked.
"Does it take away your fear?"
"It's a beginning."
"It's a process, isn't it?"
"Yes. But I do understand your gratitude for my sharing it with you."
Then Francis lay back to rest before starting the bedtime ritual later, of brushing his teeth and letting me do the flossing, and of checking his blood sugar and massaging his feet and shins, (so dry from the meds) with oil, and tucking him in bed.
Francis' words were suffusing my heart, and in particular -- "Your presence was deeply drawn into my soul, and so I am very happy."
These words of his, fresh from his living experience, had a profound effect on me, drawing me into a silence that made everything in this life seem paltry by comparison. They marked the highest, deepest, fulfillment of our marriage so far, the greatest gift I have ever been given.
What more could I ever ask of our 41 year old relationship?