My story, with Judy at its center, is just a slice of my amazing cousin’s life. Her full story will always remain big and bold, colorful, generous and loving . . . and valiant.
Judy, both cousin and friend, was falling more deeply into the morass of Alzheimer’s. So, I decided to travel the miles necessary to spend time with her, to remember with her, to say hello again to some longtime, well-loved memories we had shared. At the same time, I knew I might need to face the truth that this visit could also hold our goodbye. That delicate time together flooded back to me this summer, full of heart-felt impressions of two women who shared a history, loved each other and didn’t quite know what to make of a conversation we never expected to have.
Remembering that time wrote itself into this poem.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
A slender thread joins today’s hello
to a tender unknown.
It hangs, swaying slightly, as we walk
neither really together,
but delicately balanced between our living
Once thick with hand holds,
sturdy enough to keep us from drifting too far,
our family rope joined we two with ongoing hellos.
Confident in forever
I took our connection for granted,
assured that our separate todays –
filled with her beautiful smile,
alive with her spirited energy -
would always circle me back to share a familiar
But an uneasy tomorrow arrived too soon,
wrapped in poignant sadness.
A new and aching reality demanded my attention
and I find myself by her side.
a quiet moment between us,
Judy and I turn to look at each other.
Her shining spirit still covers me with warmth,
but her eyes snap and jitter
with their search for a resting place,
away from the sharp edges of doubt and
I search for an opening,
the sweet space of an old hello,
a thin slice of shared times.
Finding none, but still aching
at the edge of hope
I race to speech, to question and recall.
My mistake becomes her disquiet.
She falters and searches
and our tomorrows unfold.
Denial lies in pieces at my feet.
There are three of us here:
Judy and I . . .
and the certainty of our approaching goodbye.
The same slender thread, as fine and strong as
wire, binds me to her.
I feel it tighten as she and I,
continue our walk.
I said my final goodbye to Judy just months ago. At the memorial her husband and children provided us all seed packets of the same Annuals that had always given her such pleasure: Zinnias and Nasturtiums. Of course I planted them, but a bit late in the season, and in a spot I thought might be too hot. I was just hoping for the best. And some bloomed, making the most of the place they were planted, valiantly and audaciously reaching toward the light. Beautiful, just as they are . . . like Judy.
Wishing you all the grace of sweet hellos and precious goodbyes –