My ailing friend, who I previously mentioned on this blog, died this past Friday night.
I had been driving up to visit her every couple of weeks, in the skilled nursing facility in Portland that her daughters carefully researched out for her. She had been getting ever more frail, but had been holding up pretty well and staying her chipper strong-willed self, but then the inevitable happened as the stricken organs began at last to fail.
When I last saw her, a week ago, she was slipping in and out of consciousness -- but gently, more like a cycle of dozing off mid-sentence, fluttering the eyelids awake, then dozing off again. I had been told she had been having trouble recognizing people, but when I greeted her, she did know who I was. I sat with her for an hour or so, fed her some ice cream, held her hand, and kissed her. And then it was time to go, and I knew as I left that it was likely the last time I'd see her alive -- and I knew that was out of my hands, and that I had said what felt like a meaningful goodbye.
I was very calm when one of her daughters called to give me the news -- it felt like I had done all my grieving after my first visit with her in the care facility, right after we all got the news that her condition had gone end-stage. And I did grieve hard ... and then life goes on, and it's hard to stay in that hypervigilant mind-state one enters when confronting mortality up close and personal, so one slides back into detachment.
But I'm reconnecting with the feelings now, having just spent some time poking around in YouTube looking up songs my friend loved. She was a huge John Denver fan -- already considered a corny-oldie musical preference by the time she and I met in the 1990s -- but there's no denying his songs are lovely and graceful, and they definitely did the job of all good music by putting the lump in my throat and the sting in my eyes.
So this is for you, Ann -- safe as you are now in the arms of the Goddess. Your memory will always be a blessing for me.
P.S. I think she would have loved that she slipped away in the teeth of a snowstorm -- a most unusual meteorological event in the Willamette Valley, and definitely rife with all sorts of Jungian/mythical symbolism.