were they able to come back whole and healthy and visit with me?
Something that I kept from you but, really set the tone for my interaction with the staff in the facility where you died: basically the first thing any of them said to me was, I hate hospice. They essentially thought hospice kills people. So woefully ignorant- the people who must have suffered under these peoples care... Anyway, something else you didn't know because it was my job to protect you from certain things is I had to step up and advocate for you like I've rarely had to in the past (and really should never have to). There were definitely some heated conversations (confrontations?) related to your care. Didn't take this up with you then because you got what you needed. I carried the heartburn- you didn't need it, although I hope I was upfront with certain issues you and your family needed to understand and deal with- as harsh and stark as they may have sounded at the time.
You were one of the very few patients I've said, I wish I had known him before this. A lot of nurses use/overuse this concept on nearly every patient and we know it's not true- a lot of people are not nice, pleasant, interesting etc. and it's ridiculous to think because a person is dying we would want to have anything more to do with them than we would otherwise. I'm glad though, I told you personally it was a shame we never met and not just your family although I'm also happy it meant a lot to them to hear it.
I saw the relief in your tired eyes when we had our guy talk at your bedside when we first met- no baby talk, no talking like you weren't there either but, also with no illusion you'd be walking out when you left. My dad always said, A strong handshake means a lot. He was right, it's never failed me- a firm handshake really is the first sign of good character.
I'm sorry though because of the things I might have assumed about you had I encountered you in other circumstances.
You met your wife all those years ago as a result of a street race- you in your 'Vette and her in a '57 Chevy- crazy. When the two of you told that story I thought my sides were going to split. We all should be so lucky as to have a meeting story like that and the spouse who would still be there 40 plus years later.
Sorry also because you weren't at all ready to die. I'll never forget close to the end at 2 AM you were in and out of consciousness but then said clearly, I don't want to die. There was relief for you I know after we talked and read the Bible. I saw it and you said you felt better but, I just hope there was some of that same peace at the end. The way you fought it I'm afraid that wasn't the case though. I was the last person you saw in this world- I tried to step aside so you could see your wife as you faded but, I'm afraid you were gone by then. Just so sorry if I could have done anything better. So sorry.
You would ask about me even so close to the end when I was off duty and be glad when I came in- so humbling.
I've enjoyed the books you gave me and in fact the one on the American Revolution is among my favorite books. Still working on it and look forward to finishing it only because I'll start it over in a month or two.
So much died with you- compassion, knowledge, experience- I'm tempted to say," Why bother learning for the sake of learning, really- we're just going to die and it will die with us." But, of course your love of reading and learning in general you instilled in your oldest grandson and his life is already easier and better for it. You may or may not have known this but, your daughter will finish college for two reasons: to honor you and because you taught her she could. It is hard for her- tougher than guys like us could realize.
I'm sad to say she has been having a tough time since you left but, what can we say? She loved you. She said you were her, "Rock" and I'm glad for her sake she had sense enough to realize that and appreciate it while you were alive.
We called each other "Buddy" and asked about "My friend" when speaking of each other without the slightest pretense or hint of a tone of condescension.
I'm glad you finally got the fire pit you'd always wanted even though it was only months before your death.
I just wish we could have sat around it and talked or just listened to the fire crackle in good company.