If you are reading this you know that I have written a play that I perform and I write blogs about the most intimate thing possible: being with the person you love most in the world as they take their last breath. The Actual Dance is the play and it focuses a spotlight on the transformational moment for me when I realize that this is a gift, a privilege to hold that person in my arms when that does (or might) happen. “Beauty, Dignity.” “What love really means.”
When my wife of then 33 years, Susan, was going through her breast cancer there was a moment in time when the doctors on her case “went dark.” An unexpected development in her case that might have been an indication that the cancer was roaring out of control and could overtake her in even a matter of weeks. Susan, however, was determined to be mentally positive and would not hear about the possibility of death. As a result, she and I never had a conversation about “the last conversation” – so to speak.
It wasn’t until three years later as we sat on a beach in Aruba as I was reading the book “Fierce Conversations” by Susan Scott that it occurred to me that Susan and I needed to “talk.” So, I put the book down, look over at Susan lying on the blanket next to me, and I asked her what it felt like for her as she faced her end-of-life. It might be a defense mechanism for me that I often engage in the most intimate conversations with Susan in all the wrong places. My point here though is that she and I never really did have that important conversation during her treatment.
The other day I was given an incredible gift by one of my dearest friends. Someone I would consider a brother. I refer to Susan and my relationship as a singularity in that we are each an equal half of a whole represented by US. (Check out the poem and song)
For privacy reasons, I cannot right now talk in detail about my friend. I will describe it though in this way. Some part of me and my friend are also connected in the same way Susan and I are connected. We are to a degree one. We love each other and have had a journey together that is filled with existential moments.
I spent a morning with this special friend in his hospital room the day before he was scheduled for a major heart operation. He and I spoke for nearly three hours. We spoke about how incredibly fortunate we both were to have lived such amazing lives, especially given our respective starts in life. We did talk about some of our heartbreaks on our journey to “now.” Our focus though was on how incredible our lives were right now.
We noted how much our fortune was in fact based on good-fortune, just plain luck. He used the phrase, “the doors that opened for me.” Coincidentally, I am working on a project to identify people in my life who have “opened doors” for me. I have also called them “angels in my life.” I told him that he had been one of those angels in my life. And he let me know that I had been one in his life.
And then it came time for me to leave and we both looked at each other. We didn’t need to say anything more except: I love you.
While my friend is in the ICU as I write this, prospects are good for a recovery. Hopefully we will have years of friendship ahead of us. Made richer by this intimate conversation.
Again, I know that not every situation will enable such amazing conversations, I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity. My prayer for you is that whenever you are faced with loss of someone you love that you too will have an opportunity for such an intimate conversation.
As a PS of sorts, I want to note that most of the resources and writing on "intimate conversations" that I have found focus on intimacy for married couples. It surprises me that there is so little acknowledgement of intimate engagement with friends. If you have had such an experience, please share it in our comments section.