Last night a dear friend of mine dropped his 97-year-old body on the floor and ran off to join the group of friends who have been watching over him for the last century. I can only imagine it was a rowdy homecoming with lots of music, dancing, and celebration.
My friend and fellow assisted living facility resident, Charles, told me at lunch he would die last night. He didn’t actually use those words, but instead sent me a sign, a secret coded message that he knew I would understand (and anyone else that cared enough to pay attention).
What was this secret sign? He wore a pink sweater. And a pink shirt. This, from a man who, until two months ago, had worn the same ragtag clothes every day without fail. But eight weeks ago, Charles had an epiphany. And, like many of us who experience miracles of love in their lives, he would end up changing in ways no one could have predicted.
When I walked into the dining room at about 12:15 PM, I glanced at his table to see if he was there. The previous day he seemed a bit washed out, and I wasn’t sure if he would make it to the dining room. But there he was, as big as life, as tall as an oak tree, and wearing his pink sweater and pink shirt. It was as if there was a Navy Signal Corpsman sitting next to him waving his flags to spell out, “Martin, I’m going to die today- tonight at the very latest. Let’s say our goodbyes now and get on with things.”
I waited until he had finished his lunch, and as his wheelchair passed by my table on its way out the door, I wheeled over to him and placed my hand on his knee. He reached out for my hand with both of his and held it as one would a nest of robin eggs- firm, but incredibly tender. We both brushed back tears that ran down our cheeks as he continued to hold my hand. Then, without saying a word, he reached over and touched my face. And with his hand on my face he looked into my eyes, smiled, and said, “everything will be alright.”
Last night at about ten o’clock I decided to spend some time with him. I didn’t want to intrude, but I also didn’t want him to be alone. Unfortunately, my leg was hurting so badly that I rested in my lift chair, hoping to ease the pain, and the next thing I knew, it was morning.
I went to the dining room, ordered a cup of coffee, and looked over at Charles’ table. At that very second, Rachelle sat down next to me and said, “I have some very bad news.”
“I know,” I said.