And now … coffee …
Lately I have been thinking about my dear friend, Charlie. A few days before he died, I was visiting him in hospital when the nurse brought him a cup of coffee. He tried to take a sip and then laid back on his pillow exhausted. "And now … coffee," he said softly with resignation. I sensed a sob caught in the back of my throat. I knew what he meant. I could not imagine what it must have felt like not to be able to drink or enjoy coffee any more. One more thing that he would never do again.
That image has remained with me for the past thirteen years. It comes up at different moments in my life. Always as a reminder to enjoy whatever it is I am doing, because one day I will never do it again. Loss is like that. One moment later it is over and will never happen again. On and off over the past thirteen years since Charlie's death, I have experienced regret about things I could, would, should have done in my relationship with him. Moments that slipped through our fingers – our time together as close, dear friends. For example, I have never gotten over leaving him alone that last Friday night after we had moved him to Hospice. I felt intuitively that I should stay with him. There was no rhyme or reason. In fact, he had seemed quite well, sitting up in his bed watching base ball on the television with a number of close, old friends and family members in the room. He wore his glasses and even seemed content. There was one moment when I looked up and he seemed to be staring at me. I held his gaze, as voices of friends talking and laughing about this, that and baseball buzzed about my head. I wondered what he was thinking or feeling, and I thought to myself that I should not leave him alone that night. In the end I kissed him on his forehead, whispered goodbye, and glanced a farewell at the flowers I had brought him to brighten up and welcome him to his new Hospice bed. At three or four in the morning, his daughter called to tell me he had died. All I could think about was that I had not followed my heart and stayed with him during those final hours.
Regret is just too painful for words, and honestly, as I edge my way towards age 65 in the next three months or so, I know that I have no more time for feeling sorry about past transgressions. When I take that final sip of coffee, as Charles did – I want to feel satisfied, and complete – at peace.
These past couple of weeks I have had to shovel enormous amounts of snow. Some, light and fluffy, some wet, icy and heavy as lead. Often the temperatures are so cold that the tips of my fingers squeal in pain until I vehemently shake out my hands to get the blood circulating again warming them back to work. A few days ago, after shoveling my long driveway for an hour or so, I joined the neighbors next door to help them shovel theirs, so that one of them could get out to work on time. My back and arms were starting to ache and I felt a stiffness in my neck that begged me to stop. I rested for a moment with my arms on the top of the shovel, and looked out at the piles of snow that still had to be moved away from the pavement. I was exhausted. And then suddenly, the memory of Charlie bidding farewell to his beloved coffee for the last time rose up to greet me. I thought to myself, "This could be the last time I ever shovel snow again!" I realized that it was fun lugging and schlepping, laughing and chatting with my neighbors, and resumed the work, with the snow somehow now feeling lighter. Not only that, I felt a surge of energy that swept me off my feet. I continued shoveling for another half hour at least without feeling even a twinge of an ache.
A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Retaining the joy