Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rest in Peace

This seasonal decoration was on the mantle above the fireplace in the hospice where we spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening.  We were there to say farewell to an old college friend of my husband's, and spent our time mostly just hanging out with his wife and kids in the tiny room as they attempted to follow the nurse's instructions: "Just behave as you normally do."

His children are 13 and 15, so I found myself playing gin rummy and scrabble, eating pizza, and generally relaxing into our time together, despite increasingly hoarse breathing emanating from the bed that dominated the room.

By 11:30 or so it was clear we had run out of energy -- it's a long drive to Portland from Seattle, and the night before had not brought either of us much sleep -- and so, though the business of the evening was clearly drawing to a close, we elected to leave and check in to a nearby Motel Six.

One of the blessings of a long career in the Episcopal Church, with its Book of Common Prayer, is that over time some of the verses of the familiar services seem to plant themselves in your brain, to appear helpfully at opportune moments.  I had spent much of the 80's doing nightly compline services at the Episcopal Student Center in a New England college town, so as I moved toward the hospice door, wondering what I could possibly say that might ease the ordeal ahead, a familiar phrase from the Compline service filled my head, and so I shared it with my dear friend as she faced the final hours of her marriage: "May the Lord Almighty grant you a peaceful night and a perfect end.  Amen."

It felt right -- and somehow there was nothing left to say.  We hugged her and her two children, and drove away into the night -- and learned in the morning that he had died -- a very peaceful death -- less than an hour later.  And now, back home again after another tiring ride, I find myself thinking again of peace: Rest in peace, dear friend.

Rest in peace.


Maureen said...

I wish I had recalled that phrase tonight while talking with my sister who is so many miles away. A family friend, especially close to my sister, is nearing death. He asked my sister to "help" him die. We knew, without saying, what he meant (my sister is a PA), and also of the impossibility of that. I pray he may leave this world as your friend did, within hours. He deserves better than the life his cancer is taking.

May peace be with you. And may your friend forever rest in peace.

Joyce Wycoff said...

Diane ... your words were perfect. I learned that it hardly mattered what the words were since they couldn't change the situation. What mattered was that they were spoken and the caring expressed.

Louise Gallagher said...

Yes. May peace be with you and your friend forever rest in peace.

Blessings dear heart.

Demotheus said...

Diane, you really have a gift for letting your inner spirit shine through. What a beautiful post. That prayer was wonderful and powerful.