I walked up the stone pavers to the front door of the house, admiring the landscaping and the architecture along the way. I rang the lion-shaped doorbell and a woman who appeared to be in her late 40s-early 50s answered the door. She greeted me pleasantly and I introduced myself. She showed me inside and walked me to the living room where her husband (in his early 60s) sat on the couch. His skin was probably an olive color originally, but appeared yellow from the jaundice caused by the liver cancer. He had only been diagnosed about 6 weeks earlier, and now he was facing death. THEY were facing his death. I sat in the middle of the sectional sofa and began to talk to them, he on my right and she on my left. At one point, shortly into the interview, I asked a question that made her begin to cry. He scooted over and patted the couch cushion beside him. She sat beside him and he held her hand. He looked at me and tearfully said, “I don’t want to leave her.” They looked at each other and it was as if I was no longer in the room. For a moment they were caught in each other’s watery gazes, pleading for more time. They reminisced about a life full of love, laughter, multiple European vacations, and only 2 fights. He said neither fight was worthwhile, his tone tinged with regret…as if he wished for those minutes spent arguing back. At a time like this, every minute counts. Every minute is precious, when each one may be your last…though in reality, isn’t this always the case?
I couldn’t help but become tearful myself as I observed their exchange. The quick glances, the long gazes, the unspoken words…they all spoke volumes. Not only volumes about the sadness they were feeling, but also about the love that they shared. It was so apparent, so big, I could almost touch it. It was so beautiful and so moving.
As painful as having a terminal illness and being on hospice must be, there is one huge blessing with it: The chance to say goodbye. The only thing worse than the thought of dying and leaving my kids without a mother is dying instantly and not being able to tell them goodbye. We are all going to die; that is an inevitable fact. Even though we know this, and even though we say we should live each day like it’s our last, do we really do that? Or does it take the reality of each day REALLY POSSIBLY BEING OUR LAST to prompt us to live like that? There is such a blessing in that awareness and in that time.
It is not realistic to expect that everyday will be happy…and that’s okay. But everyday is an opportunity to make sure the people you love KNOW that you love them. Don’t leave things unsaid.