This tops any list I may have previously held for myself, in terms of the most painful things I have had to write. I don’t want to write, but I know deep down, that if I don’t-I will free fall into the dark recesses of my depression. God knows how badly I want that never to happen again.
I met John eight years ago, when I worked at their family owned kennel. My husband grew up with him, but I knew very little; only that he had suffered from the same oral cancer as my brother in law. I knew he was in remission, but his wife worried constantly about his health. What began as straight out intimidation soon turned to a quiet fondness of his gentle spirit and obvious physical strength. I could talk to John, be myself, content in the knowledge that he felt the same way. It wasn’t long before our relationship was misconstrued. We didn’t speak for two entire years.
When we did rekindle our friendship, it was with the knowledge that his cancer had returned, and he didn’t want treatment. I spoke with his wife on several occasions, stopping at the kennel to offer support.
If you asked either one of us, we would not be able to explain our bond; yet it is that of a brother and sister. No boundaries were ever broken, not even a kiss on the cheek.
I hadn’t stopped in for weeks, and my guilt was getting the better of me. I was also terrified, out of my mind. Over the weekend, I told him I would visit today; not realizing he had taken a turn of the very worst kind. As I pulled into the driveway, I caught a glimpse of him on the deck. My heart smashed to pieces, and before I had a chance to think, John whisked me away in his golf cart.
“I want to talk, let’s go for a ride,” he said.
I argued about him driving, he shushed me away. I was concerned with the dog, worried he wouldn’t turn the bend and find us. He pointed toward the weeping cherry he had planted as a reminder of his place on this earth. I was here. I mean the world to you, and I will always, always love you. Don’t, oh please, don’t forget your time with me.
It was explained in so many heartbreaking words that I wasn’t exactly welcome around the house. I was shell shocked. I thought we had worked through this and I couldn’t have felt more betrayed or misunderstood. But I couldn’t begin to imagine her pain-if I was grieving, I couldn’t imagine how she must feel. I gasped for air, shifted in my seat. I began talking and stopped, it was his illness, not mine.
We sat under the apple tree and wept, for what appeared to be hours, but was only moments in time.
“I know you understand, you have to go now.”
I understood, and said farewell.
Farewell is not goodbye.