Long & Short Goodbyes

Three years ago in March, a man walked into a medical office with a cough he couldn’t shake. He walked out with a diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer and a referral to oncology. He started aggressive treatments and was told he had 4-6 months to live. He overhauled his habits & lifestyle, utilized every tool he could find from both Eastern & Western medicine, and continued to be the same optimistic, kind, amazing man and artist that we all knew and loved.

Two years ago in March, my sister-in-law died without warning in her home across the street from this man’s home. She was friends with his daughter and a friend of him as well, so my family asked that man to be the emcee of her Memorial Service. He accepted with grace and humor, and we all knew it was the right choice. He joked that God must have given him a full year after diagnosis so that he could be around to do this for us. We all smiled sadly and agreed and laughed and hugged and cried together.

Six month ago, 2 1/2 years after his diagnosis, this same man was still alive and an active part of our community. It’s true that death is inevitable for all of us, so it was all about quality of life and enjoying every day he could with family and friends. Making memories, saying I love yous, living life with no regrets, and saying goodbyes. He was an inspiration.

Yesterday I got a text from this man’s daughter. “If you wanted to stop by today to say bye. Today is the day.”

I sobbed to myself, and then I pulled myself together and went over to their home. For me, for her, for him, for my sister-in-law. I’m not sure who I went for, but I know that just BEING there was important…for me, for his daughter, and for him.

I sat on his bed and held his hand and talked and cried. He could no longer talk, but I think he knew I was there. He squeezed my hand and opened his eyes and looked at me. I cried some more.

I don’t know if he passed on last night or not, I’m too afraid to ask his daughter, but either way it will be soon. Getting a chance to say goodbye to that amazing man yesterday was so bittersweet.

Sometimes I’m glad that my sister-in-law went so quickly. We didn’t get to say our final goodbyes, but we got to remember her smiling and laughing and giving our daughter kisses on the last night we saw her.

On the flip side, it’s a blessing in a way that my friend was given a chance to remember to live every day like it was his last. He dressed up as the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz just to make kids in the cancer ward smile. He gave locals and tourists alike rides around town in his vintage fire truck, running the siren and giving everyone a laugh. He went on vacations with his family and celebrated all of the every day wonders of this planet we call home. He lived and loved and said his goodbyes.

“Don’t wait for a diagnosis with a prognosis. LIVE.
Cheers,  and  remember, look both ways.”

I’ll miss you, M. Give Jaime a hug for me, would ya?

2016-03-02 12.00.00

 

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9 comments

  1. OH, Jos! I’m so sorry. Sending hugs and love…..

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  2. I almost didn’t start this until later because I knew it’d bring tears, and boy, was I right! Thanks for sharing. The loss you’ve experienced in such a short amount of time is terrifying, and the grace with which you’ve endured and shared about it is inspiring.

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  3. The particular sculpture that you posted a picture of is my favorite one of his that I’ve seen.
    Life on this earth is so short when compared to eternity, for those of us who believe there is a different world that we will all walk in some day. But it seems when the people we love die in this life it doesn’t matter if they are 1 or 18 or 27 or 63 or 87 or 100+…it’s just plain hard to say goodbye. We miss the physical presence of those dear to us, even when we know they are safe and sound and whole again with God. Lovely post, JJ. I’m glad you were able to have that moment with M. xxMom

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  4. Ack, now you are making me cry! Your friend sounds wonderful. Xo.

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  5. He knew you were there. For sure. Hugs.

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  6. sangela71 · · Reply

    I’m so sorry for your loss. As hard as I’m sure it was, I’m glad you got a chance to say goodbye to him.

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  7. I haven’t commented in forever, but the quote is so true. I was diagnosed with MS last year and had to relearn a lot of things after a bad relapse. You can’t take anything for granted. Enjoy every day to the fullest because you never know when things can change. Sorry for the loss of your friend, sounds like he was a great guy.

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  8. I’m so sorry for your loss, Josey, and very glad that you had not only these few “extra” years but also the chance to actually say goodbye. I think loss is of course hard regardless, whether it’s unexpected and swift or prolonged. I’ll be thinking of you and yours.

    And that’s a wonderful piece of artwork. Such joy and energy.

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  9. St. Elsewhere · · Reply

    He really did “live” his last few days.

    I think it takes lot of grace and dignity to live well, and not fall into a puddle to be mindful in the face of imminent death. I am glad your friend chose his way well.

    I am glad you could be there.

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