How the story ends

Too little, too late.

Or, I did all I could and it wasn’t enough.

Or, this is life sometimes.

Take your pick. My head is spinning with these three phrases, deciding which one to apply to my Saturday morning. Here’s how it went: A friend and former co-worker arrives at my house so that we can carpool to the nursing home where another former co-worker and friend is in hospice care. It’s been a long few weeks trying to find this dying friend. Just when I had given up hope of seeing her, I received an e-mail with her address and the advice: Hurry.

That was Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were impossible. I had no child care and serious commitments all day. Saturday was the earliest I could make it.

Saturday was too late.

With the best of intentions we arrived early to a quiet facility along a busy road. We worked our way through the maze of hallways and nurses stations asking all along the way where to find our friend. Finally, at the end of the longest hallway on the top floor, we entered the hospice wing.

A nurse spotted us standing in the empty waiting room.

“Who are you here to see?” she inquired.

We told her.

Then came the look. Then the news.

“No one called you?” the nursed asked, noting that others had also showed up to visit our friend who had died the night before.

“Know that she passed on peacefully and surrounded by loved ones,” the nurse said. “She was never alone. Not for one second.”

After all that her family endured watching a mother, a grandmother, a sister slip away, the best final chapter of such a tale of suffering would be that she was enveloped in love and kindness and compassion. It was exactly how she lived her life. What she gave out in generous ¬†portions in life: care, comfort, kindness and joy she received back doubly in the end. I’m sorry ¬†her exit was so painful.

Now, please excuse me, I have a long letter to write.

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