Goodbye … Again

Muri_JackieLast week, we said goodbye to our dear friend, Jackie, who passed away after an extended hospital stay.   We had been visiting her twice a week at the hospital, both to enjoy her company and to give her daughters (who both have their own children to care for) some time off.   We watched and waited for signs of improvement but at least to our eyes, they never really materialized.   Jackie was tired and somewhat groggy much of the time but as we sat and talked about our almost fifty years as friends, the Jackie we knew would make regular appearances, the radiant smile and her laugh lighting up her hospital room.   Last Wednesday morning her daughter called us to say, You’d best come down and say goodbye, she’s not going to make it.  She was unconscious when we arrived but we took turns sitting beside her, talking to her, saying our goodbyes.  Late in the afternoon, after the family had arrived, she was taken off life support and quietly passed.

We met Jackie and her husband , Don, when we were first married back in Rhode Island.   I worked with Don and twice a week he and I would drive to Boston for graduate classes.   My wife Muri spent those evenings with Jackie and they became the best of friends.   The four of us became inseparable.   When Don and Jackie moved to California to be near Jackie’s Mom, we said our sad goodbyes, only to joyfully reunite when we moved to California only months later.  Although they lived in San San Diego and we lived in the Los Angeles area, we spent weekends at each others houses regularly.  We raised our kids together.  We spent holidays together.  We vacationed together.  We were family.

When Don and Jackie divorced some years ago, our visits with Jackie became less frequent and shorter.  We would drive down for the day, sit and talk, maybe go out for dinner.  Muri would meet Jackie halfway between LA and San Diego for lunch then spend the afternoon talking.   For some years, we still spent Christmas and Thanksgiving together but as our kids grew and grandkids appeared, that gradually faded.   When I went to my Men’s Group retreats, Muri would spend the weekend with Jackie … having our own retreat, Muri called it.  Occasionally, we’d lose touch for too long, too busy to remember to touch base but then we’d meet and it would be exactly as if we’d never missed a beat.  That is the sign of a true friendship.

Life is full of goodbyes.   Friendships fade, people move away.  As we age, more often we say goodbye in hospitals, at funerals and memorial services.   Perhaps an irony of life is that the more you love, the harder the goodbyes become, the more paralyzing the grief can be.   Jackie was a truly good person, caring and compassionate and tolerant of others.  She and my wife, Muri, were so much alike that sometimes being out with the two of them was, as the Doublemint Gum commercial used to say, Double the pleasure, double the fun.  Even though we saw her only every few months, we will miss her terribly, knowing that our fifty years of shared experience isn’t out there, a phone call and an hour’s drive away.

As I careen back and forth between the anger and depression stages of grief, it is easy to curse the process, my inability to go directly from the shock of losing a loved one to the relative peace of acceptance.   Last night, sharing about my grief in my Thursday Night Men’s Group, I came upon this.   Our grief is the living evidence of a special love.   It honors both the person and the relationship.    Seen this way, would I want to honor Jackie less by rushing through the grief process?  As difficult as grieving is, it is a reminder to be grateful for a long and joyful friendship.   Looking at grief as a form of gratitude makes is a little easier to bear.

Goodbye, Jackie.   We love you.


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One Comment on “Goodbye … Again”

  1. rita altman Says:

    A beautiful eulogy to a true lady.

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