Serena felt well enough to be wheeled out & sit on the porch
on this warm, pleasant October day.
“Do you know what season this is”, she asked? “It’s autumn now”, I said.
“No, this is winter, it’s my winter”, she seemingly scoffed.
This hospice volunteer smiled and said, “it can be any season you like right now”.
More talkative than I’d experienced her on previous visits,
I asked about favorite memories. She briefly shared of joys & sorrows.
“As an artist & dreamer, born in the 50’s, I did what I loved,
making just enough to simply get by in Northern California.
As good luck would have it, I survived here”.
“Making art made you happy”, I asked?
“Usually, except when I felt my alone-ness”, said she.
“On some of those days I’d put chalk to sidewalk,
coloring my world for others.”
Eyes closed, she seeming faded, then burst out,
“During my last ER visit I remember hearing doctors
using a lot of medical terms and saying,
‘there’s no pulse, she’s gone.’ “When I stopped treading water,
I was swept through a tunnel and smoothly came to rest
in a room with forgotten, but familiar sounds & faces.
My grandmother held my hand and both my mother and father
kissed me; both looking so young & healthy”
“Then they bought me back. Why did they revive me like this,
with little time to live & unable to walk?”, she sighed.
“Last night I dreamed I was on a beach, unable to move
as the vultures crowded closer.”
“Sounds scary! Thank you for waking up from that bad dream,
and sharing it with me”, I said softly.
“I told those I’ve not seen in ages not to come
out of their way to visit me now.
Instead, donate any time & money it have would cost to see me
to a sick child or adult who is in real need, one with time left to live.”
“I not a believer in heaven or hell. What do you believe”, she asked?
“Thoughts, words & actions of caring & love live on after our body is gone.
Perhaps there’s a peaceful shore we can touch, even now, while we’re here”, I contemplated.
In a most precious moment, I invited a bell, then we sat on that porch,
mindful of our breathing in, then breathing out;relaxing bodies, minds & feelings.
Offering the most precious thing we had- our presence.
Without warning I remembered this song of going home.
Jokingly, she stated, “I’ll let you drive me to that other shore.
When there I’d like a horse to get me about, as I my legs are weak.”
Smiling, I said, “I may paddle there someday. I believe your calm breath
is an excellent vehicle for you now, for arrive slowly, but gently in each moment.”
“Maybe see you there one fine day. What color is your boat”, she asked?
Me: “I’d take the beat-up yellow one, I guess.” Her: “I’ll put out a welcome rug.”
A week later the hospice nurse called to say Serena had passed.
I ventured out on that windy afternoon for a paddle
to let the wind, water & sky embrace my feeling of grief.
They understood & obligingly offered comforting refuge.
“When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh