My friend George died six months ago today.
He died as fall was fading into winter. Now, with the waning of spring, there are signs of summer. The lilac blossoms are gone. The lavender stalks will blossom within a day or two. I pass the lavender on my way from the house to my writing shed.
It’s not so much that I miss their scent throughout the rest of the year as that I anticipate it as I see the passage of time in my garden. I know that one morning the scent will be there — a presence. Along with that — the faint buzz of bees. I wonder where they are making their lavender honey.
The sound of those words — lavender honey — slows me down. I’ve been wanting to slow down. Not having time slow down, I know that’s not possible, but my slowing down. Taking time to feel that there is time enough, if I let it be.
George’s dying was hard for me. I thought I would be a much bigger part of it because we met as hospice volunteers. I actually think that George pushed me away, as he did many others. He was so sweet and supportive that everyone thought that’s what George wanted—to be up close sweetly supported.
But, really, George kept people at bay. I suspect that for complicated reasons, he just felt safer that way. And so that’s how his dying went. In retrospect, I can see how bravely he faced it; how he marshaled all the forces he was accustomed to using in relationships to carry him through this most difficult of relationships. The one we have with dying.
Contained anger was a big force with George. I suspect that underneath that anger was the pain that people he loved both loved and betrayed him. That’s a difficult dichotomy to live with.
Fifteen months between his diagnosis and his death. During that time, lavender’s presence graced the path to my writing shed. I couldn’t tell you the day I noticed it was gone. Or even if I noticed it was gone. It’s just that once again, I anticipate its presence.
A friend who was a midwife to George’s death recently listened to the music Tom and Rob created that night that George died. She said it captured his breathing as he made his way through his final breaths.
Inspiration means filled with the gods. Perhaps expiration is about releasing them—releasing all those life forces that animate us.
About three months before he died, George wrote and then made a video recording of a message he wanted to leave behind. I watched it recently. Frankly, I can’t remember specifics. I just know that it brought his presence back to me. It’s the presence that isn’t armored with contained anger.
Loving is neither simple, nor easy. Sometimes you have to stand at the precipice of disappointment of what you wanted and what you got—and be grateful. For me, that’s being in a state of grace.
If Tom’s and Rob’s music is any reflection of George’s dying, then he died in a state of grace.
I read recently that grace is the unearned gift.