The quote above was certainly true in our lives the last couple of weeks. We had a fun vacation up north and the next day we were sitting by the bedside of my brother-in-law who was in his final moments.
As I look back on the week it was a week of blessings. We spent time with good friends. We laughed, ate the fish the men caught, explored shops and took the time to relax and enjoy life. It wasn’t the fact that we were on vacation that made it special; it was the fact we shared the week with close friends creating memories.
We got the call that we were needed at the bedside of my brother-in-law, Evan, as we were driving home from the lake. The next few days by his bedside we prayed, cried, reminisced and waited for God to call him home. As hard as it was, it too was a blessing because we could be there in his final moments. We could connect with others who loved this man. We don’t always come into this world easily at birth and we don’t always go out easily either. The last few days were a struggle for him and we didn’t want him or his wife being alone at this difficult time.
I wondered as we sat there waiting, what he would have said to us if he would have had the power to speak. What would he say about what we were saying? What was he thinking? Were we giving him comfort? Or would he have told us to go away?
It had been a long journey for Evan. His diagnosis was Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t the first in the family, and I suspect it won’t be the last. He was not the person the last few years we all remembered. Yet, he was still loved in his anger, quietness and joy, remaining the husband, father and brother in our lives.
Everyone deals with a loved one’s decline differently. Some stay away because they can’t handle seeing their loved one in this changing state. They want to remember them as they were. I get that. And again I support those who have to do what they do to take care of themselves. For myself at this time in my life I think about the person going through the process of leaving this earth or who is in declining health. It isn’t about me; it is about them and what they are feeling if those they love stay away.
We all need someone to share the rough spots of our life, to help us get through the hills and the valleys, whether it is an illness where we are healed, or an illness where God chooses to take us home. We need someone to care.
I have not always been by the side of someone I loved, or visited a friend when they are going through their final weeks. I too have stayed away. When my friend Mary was ready to leave this world I stayed away. I was sick and suffering depression and I couldn’t handle it. I so regret that I stayed away and didn’t say goodbye, but I get it when seeing someone you love in pain is too much.
I haven’t always helped those who needed help. I haven’t always had the help of those I thought I could depend on, but I know it is not because I didn’t care or they didn’t care, but because of where they were or where I was in my life, there was nothing left inside of them or me to help someone else.
This time, I was able to say goodbye to the man who was the first person besides my mother-in-law to welcome me into the family and accept me as I was. I felt privileged to have the time to say goodbye to the man who was godfather to my children and took that role very seriously. My children all have special memories of their Uncle Evan as do all his nieces and nephews.
If we needed help, Evan was there to lend a hand. He was there to give his opinion and we could take it or leave it. He left us with sayings we will never forget and memories that will always have a hold on our hearts.
Don’t be afraid to hold the hand of someone you love in their final moments. You will find you won’t remember what they looked like in their final days, but you will remember the lifetime of memories that you were given and the smiles that came before.
Rest in peace, Evan. When we asked you how you were, you always replied, “Not as good as some, but better than most.” In our eyes you were always the best.