You say, “Don’t forget me.” It takes me by surprise. I suck in my breath and try to keep myself calm. The last thing you need is to comfort me.
The truth is you don’t need anything. Your vision is tunneling so that you can only see your family, and they love you with ice water and clean sheets, by occupying the chair next to your bed and helping you figure out the chronology of the past month.
They love you with warm lighting in a room where you’ve spent many hours, even before you were sick. They are washing the dishes and loving the dogs. Your young retriever lopes up to me as I’m leaving, “That’s her dog, you know.” And I do know. I relish his energy and the way he soaks up my attention.
I told you, when I could steady myself, “I’ll never forget you.” And I remind you of the others we’ve lost, whose names we mention. We haven’t forgotten them, and their names bring—mostly—smiles. You smile easily, but I have to force mine, because your name will be among theirs soon. Much too soon.
You are worried about your family, the ones who are taking care of you and being with you moment by moment. But, you are looking forward, you tell me, to seeing MK and your mother and father.
I keep hearing your words. “Don’t forget me.” I keep turning them over in my mind and trying to figure out what you’re asking.
How could I forget you? You, who occupied your chair in our group with such presence. You asked the questions the rest of us wouldn’t. You pushed back and resisted. You embraced us, easily, comfortably. You cried. You risked.
You told me once that you weren’t sure what to make of me when I first started coming to the group. I knew that, of course. You don’t suffer fools gladly.
You were chagrined by my need to know and understand every little thing about my health care. You pushed me toward acceptance and letting go. You asked me hard questions.
But today, you say, “We were always such a good fit.” And I agree because I always saw you, heard you, thought about your words. Even when they made me angry on occasion. Maybe it was the same with you.
So, no, I will not forget you. If nothing else we have been a witness to each other’s lives. We have heard each other’s words that carried our fear and love and hope and grief.
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