My dear friend will die any day now. We weren't sure he'd make it to Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then Easter … and now, by refusing a feeding tube and respirator, we all know that it is imminent. He shall not be here long.
But in truth, he hasn't been around for a while. His position was on rotation, so he's was effectively out of my life a couple of years before his diagnosis and demise. Why, then, the pangs? Why didn't his absence pull at my heart the way news of his death will?
It is, of course, partially due to the finality of it all. It will be certain that I won't sit with him again. But there is more. It isn't just the absence of him that brings tears to my eyes. It is the idea that I won't love in that vein again -- so purely and openly, without resentment or disappointment.
Loving people is so complicated, hence the multi-million dollar pet industry. They have their preferences and expectations and needs. Consequently, this man of the collar who is facing his mortal end stands together with only one other person in my life in the type of love they bring to mind. The love I feel for them relaxes my shoulders and tastes like spring water. I am whole in their presence.
The other person is my dead mother. Since she passed when I was three, we never sullied our relationship with dispute or rancor. We never conversed. We never negotiated. We never had to make up. I just woke up one day and was told I was a "big girl now."
Although I'm often jealous of friends with mothers, I know that I am who I am because of that loss. Since the age of three, I have been certain that I would die someday … and that childhood knowledge has marked me.
And in truth, there is something wondrous about retaining a memory of pure love. It is virtually irreplicable beyond those tender childhood years … which is why Father Pat's passing stirs up my childhood grief. At his funeral, I will likely cry for him and cry for my mother. A child has no ability to mark and honor the passing of a life, much less their mother's. With his passing, I will be able to release decades of pent up loss. But I will also be able to know that I am fortunate in the scope of the Universe. I am a starred child of the heavens to have known two figures of pure love in my life.