Today is an unusually balmy April day. It’s the kind of day one waits for all through January and February. The budding trees remind me of the new life that incubated all winter in the roots of the old tree outside my friend’s window.
But right now I’m focusing only on the face of my long time friend. Time is standing still for her and for me. I watch her as she takes one breath after the other. The evenness of her breathing lets me know that she is temporarily comfortable. She knows she is dying of an aggressive cancer. She acknowledges that the rapidness with which it has overtaken her life and the blurring effect of her pain medications periodically places her in an in-between world. However, as each person enters her room, she immediately becomes attentive to them and tries to enter their world. This pattern of attentiveness to those around her is so well developed that even her diminishment can’t prevent her from this seasoned response to others. Her smile is warm, gentle and completely welcoming.
As I let tears fall, I’m reminded of how she has been a message of hope to so many of her friends over the years. Her listening and nonjudgmental presence always created space for people to be their most authentic self. Her quick wit, lively insights and love for investigation always provided many animated conversations and delights. Even as I watch her today, she incarnates an Easter message for me. She reminds me of the words of Demetrius Dumm, OSB, as he quotes Sacred Scripture, “Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death”. His commentary says, “This does not mean that we will not die. Rather, it assures us that, if we live unselfishly and try to be a loving presence in our world, we will acquire a new life that cannot be touched at all by physical death”. Her loving presence has survived many winter incubations. She is on the edge of her Easter budding. The tears of her friends are the grateful moisture that accompanies this budding. Her unselfishness has strengthened our roots for our own Easter journey. We are confident that her Easter presence will continue to accompany us in the days ahead.