This realization made me remember someone close to me who chose to do the same, to keep her fatal illness to herself, or at least to a very small select few who were given the ultimate badge of trust and kept the secret until the last breath. I didn't know she was ill, or I would have made every effort to see her before she died, to make sure she knew how much her friendship meant to me. But, I never got the chance. I received a phone call telling me she had died.
Then and now I felt that both my friend and Nora Ephron were a bit selfish, not allowing those that love and cherish them the opportunity to say goodbye.
Then, I realized it is me that is being selfish.
How dare I presume to know anything about a dying person’s emotions and needs and to have the gall to feel they owe me, or anyone anything at this most private moment in their life. To reveal this most intimate of intimacies or not is every individual’s prerogative. It doesn’t make the loss any easier to bear for those of us that are left behind without the chance to come to terms with it, but it is what it is.
Writing this I realize perhaps I have a deeper reason for having this point of view. I have the wonderful opportunity to spend several weeks a year with my daughters, grandchildren, and friend, Nancy, when all of us meet in southern California every few months. I love those times; we laugh, talk, eat, and make memories. When it is time for us to part; me back to Las Vegas, Nancy to Oregon, the moment of goodbye is hard to face. Who knows if for some reason this is our last time together? So, we make sure we all say, “Goodbye. I love you. Be safe.”
I do not like to have such morbid thoughts about one of us being lost forever, but it is a reality that makes its appearance in my conscience and I have no control over it.
Another memory resonates profoundly for me, perhaps the seed that started this need to be sure those I love know how much I hold them in my heart. Years ago I remember my aunt sharing something about my mother - her big sister and by her account, her best friend. On the night my mother was killed my aunt was present and heard much of the horror unfold, and the event changed her forever. What she tearfully told me when she had the courage to talk about that night was that her sister “Never said good night.”
My mother never had the chance to say goodbye to those that loved and cherished her and it was the sister (and the children) that have been forever haunted by the lost opportunity.
There is that saying that we should all live each day as if it were our last. To that I agree but would add that it is just as important to let those in your life know how much they mean to you and not worry so much about “goodbye.” After all, it’s just a word and actions speak volumes more.