Friday, October 26, 2007

A Day in the Life

Tucson, Arizona. A friend of mine will die this weekend for medical reasons not worth describing. Perhaps he takes the red step tomorrow, maybe Sunday. He will not wait until Monday. AR still has all of his mental faculties, and although weak, he can walk and use his hands for simple tasks. He asked WP and me to spend some time with him a day this week, driving him to certain places including the desert. Of course we agreed.

We drove AR up north towards Oracle. WP knew the area well, so we ended up well off the road, so AR could walk around in the desert. For the entire drive, barely a word was spoken. No one had anything to say. We stopped the truck far into the desert after miles of dirt road. The desert was very quiet. AR walked slowly, watching his feet land on the ground and listening to the sound of it crunching with each step. I could tell he was listening to that sound.

AR walked up to a Saguaro and stared at it for several minutes, looking at its arms, needles, color, circling it. He reached out and pressed his hand against the needles, not hard enough to hurt himself. He looked up at the sky, then to the Saguaro, then down to a prickly pear. He asked us to help him sit. We cleared a patch of dirt, and AR sat down with the prickly pear. He pressed his finger into the petal to bend it slightly and felt its texture. He scratched it slightly and smelled the cactus. We spent almost two hours in the desert and barely spoke.

We brought food with us, and WP and I wanted to do everything for AR and serve him. AR wasn’t having any of this. He wanted to open everything himself. He really liked opening everything, especially cans. He popped open our soda cans for us, paying incredibly close attention to every detail.

AR wanted to see some flowers. Weak, he slept in the car as we returned to Tucson. WP and I did not feel like speaking. We took him to Tohono Chul Park. AR awoke, and we walked around the park. He interacted with all of the plants, but also looked at the other people, observing them engaged in their conversations. He looked at the people in the restaurant, every table. Some were happy, some not. One couple appeared to be fighting. He smiled at all of it.

AR wanted coffee. I forget the name of the shop. It’s on Oracle north of Ina, the west side. He ordered a medium coffee with two extra shots. He must have smelled that cup for ten minutes. I can’t describe it, but never have I been in a situation where talking seemed so completely ridiculous. With the exception of the trivial, "Let's sit here," our faces handled whatever communication needed to take place. Watching him sniff the coffee just killed me. I welled up something awful and almost broke, and I knew if I did, I’d be a blithering mess for at least ten minutes. AR smiled and handed me a napkin, which all but did me in. I pressed the napkin hard into my eyes and took several deep breaths over and over until it passed.

We took him to a bookstore. AR walked all over the store, fascinated with the children in the kids section, smiling at them. He sat and watched them, completely entertained as the little kids ran around, read books, interacted with their parents. AR then spent 20 minutes with Eliade’s The Sacred and the Profane.

We took him home to a waiting wife. At the door I have never heard such simple words weigh so much when he thanked us for taking him around. He then turned to us and added, "Let’s have this be it."

The following day he spent with his wife. I learned that he apologized to her for dying first, wanting to be there to support her on her last day.

Godspeed, AR.


Blogger thinkright said...

well done

10/26/2007 10:04 AM  
Blogger Dustin said...

my deepest condolences X, I can only hope my red step is as dignified. That was well written, and brought tears to my eyes.

10/26/2007 11:01 AM  
Blogger AZW88 said...

wow. Great write up.

10/26/2007 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Scarlett Letter said...

Matt -- this is a very powerful tribute to your friendship.
Bless you and all involved!

10/26/2007 12:48 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

My condolences, to you, WP and to AR's family.

10/26/2007 2:39 PM  
Anonymous The Navigator said...

My sentiments as well, and excellent, touching and thought provoking post.

In my opinion, based on the quality of the characters involved, AR will find himself in a better place.

As Dustin noted, I hope I can have the courage and dignity displayed by your friend when my time comes.

I agree with Scarlett, that AR chose you (and this goes for WP as well) speaks mountains about who you are. Please extend our regards as you consider appropriate.

10/26/2007 2:52 PM  
Blogger roger said...

What a testament about how precious life is and how we miss so much of it until the end comes our way. In the case of your friend, he/she had the opportunity to plan a little of it. So many have it taken from them or lose life in an instant.

Your story really made me think.


I am really sorry for your loss, Matt.

10/26/2007 4:35 PM  
Anonymous the doctor said...

A deeply, deeply touching post. Without saying anything about any religion, you demonstrate something spiritually profound.

I am moved with admiration toward AR. What dignity. I agree with Navigator. That he chose you says a lot, and what you did says a lot. In my opinion, and I am not a spiritual expert, it must have taken courage to spend that time with him. Maybe courage isn't the right word. It took something.

Thank you for this post. I think you contributed to all of us.

10/26/2007 5:30 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

x4mr, your friend has faced down death with immense grace, dignity, and acceptance. The peaceful, quiet day spent with a couple of close friends, nature, and watching children was a good day for your friend, you can be sure. I know from my own experience how humbling it is to be chosen to share the final days and hours of a close friend. It is very different from family, because our friends are with us by choice and for no other reason. It is a very different kind of bond and it is one of the hardest to let go of, when the time comes.

Your post here is beautifully written.

10/27/2007 8:43 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Thanks everyone for all of the comments here. As anticipated, AR did not waste time. I got the call this morning. His wife was with him when it happened.

10/27/2007 9:43 AM  

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