Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hanging Out

I visited a friend earlier this week who's been in chronic care for about a year and a half, since a brain bleed left her dependent on others for just about everything. Much of last winter was pretty bleak. But on most visits, you could get at least a smile of recognition, the smile that made it easier to say, yes, that's her, the friend we love. But sometimes not much more than that; occasionally a few words, still available to her from a lifetime of habitually gracious kindness toward others.

Then there was the miracle of seeing her come out of the fog one day last spring, as we listened together to a CD she'd always loved. The further miracle of finding her, this fall, capable of full sentences, watching television with interest, drinking tea and eating a cookie without assistance. And on this last visit, engaging in a full conversation, with a few holes that the words she wanted just weren't there to fill.
It's an impossibly long shot that she'll improve enough to move into any sort of assisted living. There's not even any telling whether this dramatic improvement will last. Another cerebral hemorrhage--the last one was her third in ten years--could wipe it all out in an hour.
Hope isn't the point. What's ahead isn't the point. Last winter, a smile of recognition was the point. In the spring, the joy of listening to music together was the point.  This fall, sitting side by side watching excruciatingly bad reality TV was the point. This week, hearing her express her eagerness to leave for home, knowing she probably never will, and suggesting that next visit I should bring real food from outside, is the point. Next visit, letting go of all of it again may be the point.
That's the gift I receive from my friend. She helps me remember that what's fallen away isn't what creates love. What's fallen away doesn't jeopardize love. We're just hanging out together, in the shared experience of being in our bodies, being dependent on our bodies, experiencing an unpredictable fragility that's both the terror and the glory of being alive, and learning that somehow, love goes on snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

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