What to say? I scarcely know what to say or do these days. My friend did die, as she and everyone else expected. She passed late in the evening of 8/19. She was at home and had at least one person with her all the time. I was blessed to be able to go out there the Saturday before. Her family was very gracious and allowed me much time to be with her during the day. She was more or less non-communicative the whole time. Apparently her last fully lucid day was the day before I got there, and I had talked to her on the phone a couple of days prior to that.
It was a strange thing. I didn't have anything I needed to say to her or to "work out" with her. We said everything to each other when we talked. Maybe that's why we could talk for four hours straight and still be going strong when our families were begging us to stop already. I just felt I had to be there with her, and I was. I talked to her about the new days and the old days. I sang to her, beautiful old hymns that we loved and a few new ones that I loved and felt she'd like. I held her hand and stroked her arm and shoulders, trying to be soothing.
There were a few times that it seemed she was trying to talk to me and when I'd sing, she'd make sounds that I took to be her singing along. It made me smile and tear up, all at the same time. It was a special time, but different from the other times that we'd had, when she just wore me out with her energy and extrovertedness. It was a quiet time, it seemed endless. It wasn't.
I was able to stay for the funeral, then had to rush home because the two people who could drive were sick. I can't really talk about the funeral. Too much there that could be misconstrued. A key point is that I did not even consider crying until we all got up to file past the casket. That's when they started playing a slide show of photos of Cherylyn. One popped up of the two of us, the time I'd come to visit in April. That one almost made me lose it. At the same time, when it would come up, I would just hungrily scan it, hoping to make sense of the realization that this vital piece of humanity was gone, leaving us all behind. It still doesn't make sense to me. I think that is part of the problem I am having.
Or maybe I'm not having a problem at all. I think it's rather normal to feel down when a dear one dies. I didn't see or even talk to her every day, but she was always in the back of my mind. We wrote letters back and forth and just enjoyed our friendship so very much. But now she's gone and we and I have to learn to go on without her.
I am so grateful that we had the years that we had. Her very life was a gift and a prod to be a better person. Her family will survive and even flourish because of the determination and work she put into them. I miss her but I'm so so glad that she is no longer suffering from the pain she carried for so long.
A good friend read the following at her memorial service and it still makes me smile.
Gone From My Sight
by Henry Van Dyke
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone"
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"