Sunday, 1 November 2009

To love that well

gale blowing in am, clearing in PM

So much has happened since the last post. We're in London now. Just had dinner in a pub on the King's Road. Michael had a Sunday roast and I had fish and chips. We both had a ginger beer. And talked about the weekend.

We fell into bed Friday night - exhausted but feeling very calm. Slept extemely well and had a wonderful full English breakfast Saturday morning. Then off to John and Moira's. The place is called the Guildhall and is a Grade 1 listed timber frame home right beside the church. From there we went the 30 minutes to Norwich Hospital to see John. He'd been so well the day before the family, who had been planning to stay, had decided that maybe it was safe to leave on Sunday and come back mid-week if need be.

Saturday, though, found John exhausted. Still aware, but drifting in and out of sleep. Michael and Dick spent time with him. I went in briefly to say hello and kiss him. Then left the guys alone. We spent all morning in the waiting room as the family took turns sitting with John. Then we went to the cafeteria for lunch. After lunch it was time for Dick to say goodbye. He needed to head off. So he went up alone to be with John, say to goodbye in private. It was heartbreaking to see him, so dignified, back so straight, walking to the elevator to see his friend for the last time.

He came back down 15 minutes later and we all hugged and wished him a good trip. He's a lovely man, and a wonderful friend to both John and Michael. And too much of an Englishman to show his pain, though it was evident in the red eyes when he returned.

Then Dick left for the train station and we spent the rest of the afternoon at the hospital as the family and Michael rotated in and out of John's room. In late afternoon we were driven back to the bed and breakfast.

Saturday felt different than Friday. As though the air had been released. Deflated. the energy almost gone. It also felt as though the family was reaching the end of their rope...just hanging on. And while Michael and I felt loved and welcome, we also felt they didn't need to cook for us, and make pleasant conversation, drive us home. Besides, honestly, we were tired too.

So we picked up a couple of sandwiches and some softdrinks and cocooned back at the fabulous B&B - Camomile Cottage. I realized I mis-spelt it in the previous post. And perhaps just now too! And I haven't had the chance to read the comments from the previous post, but I will...and I am certain they are loving and kind and wise and caring. And I am sure I will be deeply comforted, as will Michael. Thank you.

Neither of us slept well last night. I could hear Michael crying and held him a few times, then realized when I did he stopped, only to start again. And I wondered if I was holding him, and comforting him, more for my sake than his. That his crying hurt me and I wanted it to stop. But perhaps, I thought, he should just cry. So I let him. But it was hard. sometimes I could hear him speaking to himself, mumbling, but I couldn't make out what he was saying. Prayers? Talking to God? To John?

Next morning I found out he was practicing what to say to John today, when it came his turn to say goodbye.

Eventually that time came, and of course, everything he'd planned and practiced went out the window and it was just the two of them sitting quietly, Michael holding John's hand.

they'd had a call from the hospital last night to say John was now in renal failure and he would soon slip into a coma, and die. He might have a day. Perhaps two.

When we arrived, he was awake. Agitated, but not in pain, and not frightened. Michael held his hand, then kissed him. And told him he loved him. Then he left.

And now we're in London. Tired and sad. But also grateful we came. And feeling we, mostly Michael, really has said goodbye. And it was time to go.

We've received many beautiful messages in the past few days. Many very personal, with people telling me about their own experiences, losing someone they loved. the agony of the anticipated grief. Those final moments. How hope shifts from long life, to painless, peaceful death. it never leaves, it just changes.

And Harry sent us these lines from Shakespeare's Sonnet 73

This thou perceivest, which makes they love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

10 comments:

Shelagh said...

Dear Louise, Michael, and John's beloved family,

I am so sorry, and though I do not know John, I am heartbroken and weeping for you losing such a beloved friend.
Your words are so eloquent, and so sad.

Peace to all of you.

Hugs, Shelagh

Bev Stephans said...

Dear Louise,

Words cannot express how I feel for you and Michael and John's family. These are times when all of our strengths are tested.

"May the road rise up to meet you and the wind be at your back."

Bev

lil Gluckstern said...

My thoughts are with you and Michael. There is so much deep love inside you for each other, and your friends. May there be peace for all amid the sorrow. Thank you for letting use share these moments with you.

Lil

Beth said...

Dearest Louise and Michael,

I have wanted to write, and yet have not known what to say. It hasn't been very long since I made a trip to say goodbye to someone so dear to me, and then another to mourn and remember with those who loved her.

Today, thinking about Michael and John, and all the ones who have left my life too soon, I remembered how exquisitely hard it has been to say goodbye, but that not having the chance to say goodbye was even worse.

What a blessing, when it is time to go, to see how beloved you are.

Wishing you and Michael and all of John's family much comfort in the days ahead.

xxx Beth
in Oregon

DL said...

Although I only know you through your writing, I'd like you to know that John, his family, Michael and you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Cece said...

It almost feels intrusive to offer comfort to you and Michael, as grief is such a private, harsh emotion. But I wish you the peace of knowing you brought comfort to John and his family, and that when it counted, you were able to be counted upon. That is friendship, and that is love.

Louise Penny Author said...

Hello to you all...

Thank you. How beautiful. Your kindness means so much and is a balm, never an intrusion. And how moved I am to hear your own experiences. Thank you for opening up to me. And Michael. You are all so kind.

Pierre said...

I am sure that your friend John felt loved. I also feel that Michael was able to transmit that love. Those are the important things. Time will slowly help understand and accept the loss. You have all my sympathy.

Maureen said...

Louise,
The way you have described the bond between Michael and John has brought tears to my eyes. I am the manager of a library, and when one of my long-time employees finally succumed to cancer earlier this year, the following quote was read at her funeral. I hope it brings some comfort to Michael.

“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. .there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you.”
Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh
A.A. Milne

Susan said...

My heart breaks for Michael as he says goodbye to his friend and for you while you comfort him. Nothing hurts worse than when the ones you love are hurting.

At my father's funeral, this quote brought some comfort. Maybe it's a way for Michael to find some peace, too.

"I am standing on the seashore. A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze & starts for the ocean. I stand watching her until she fades on the horizon, & someone at my side says, "She is gone." Gone where? The loss of sight is in me, not in her. Just at the moment when someone says, "She is gone," there are others who are watching her coming. Other voices take up the glad shout, "Here she comes," & that is dying."--Henry Scott Holland.

Susan