My friend Kay died last night at 7:02pm.
Regular readers may recall that I've written about Kay before in these pages - five years ago when she was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and just last year when she married Jeff in one of the most beautiful and heartful weddings ever.
I've been part of Kay's live-in caretaking circle for the best part of the last two weeks, my life simplified down to the minutia and routine of end-of-life care. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most painful forms of the disease and much of our time was spent trying to keep her comfortable. Thank goodness we were mostly successful.
Now that I'm back home I feel as if I've been floating in a state of grace. There was a one-pointedness to our days, a unified clarity and focus that brought us intact through some pretty difficult hours. Now that it's all over, I'm a bit disoriented and not sure how to shift back to the very different demands of "real life". But perhaps most of all I'm left with the sense of having been blessed - it was an honor to have been able to be there and to have shared an experience so profound and so intimate. It is such a gift (thank you to my patient husband and flexible clients too), to be able to respond when it really matters.
And Kay really mattered. To me, and to a lot of people. She perfected the art of deep friendship and had so many friends, so many people who loved her. A shining example of what a human being can be, when faced with a diagnosis that would knock most people to the ground, she responded with elegance and grace, compassion, strength and fortitude. She was grateful for every single day she was given. She lived a beautiful life and died an extraordinary death, surrounded by love and the tender devotion of family and friends.
May that be so for each of us.