Right now a woman is lying in a nursing home not far from my home, asleep and unaware.
She is my friend, and she is dying. A few months ago she stopped taking the chemotherapy that was turning her skin into on huge painful blister. It was the fourth round of chemo and was only intended to postpone the inevitable. Four month without more chemo, they said, and that seemed like such a long time. But that was three months ago.
Last week Janae and I planned Thanksgiving dinner. She was bringing yams with pineapple and pecans and marshmallows on top. I told her we'd give her a ride if she didn't want to drive. No problem, she said. It was Wednesday last week, nearly a lifetime ago.
Friday I got a call that she was in the hospital. Saturday morning I opened the door to room 622 on the Oncology Wing expecting to see my Janae sitting up, commanding the nursing staff from her bed. Instead I found her tiny and gray, curled under the blankets, sleeping so deep it seemed she was in another world. When she finally woke, she told me where to find her will. How to call a friend in another city. Who should get her pearl jewelry. She fell back asleep every few words and I had to wake her to finish each sentence.
Is it drugs? I asked the nurse. She shook her head.
You know the head shake. The one that comes with the tight smile and the set facial muscles. You see it all the time on television medical dramas just before the words "I'm afraid the news is bad."
The news is bad. The disease that has eaten her kidneys and swollen her liver so big it has pushed her stomach out of place has found its way into her brain.
Amazing things have a way of happening when life is short. Old friends find their way to the hospital bed. Estranged family members remember the love and fly into town. Good people find time to visit someone they never met for love of a friend. Through it all, flurries of emotion and care-taking erupt and subside all around while Janae sleeps at the eye of the storm.
Everything has been done that can be. All the phone calls have been made. The lost children have been found. We are all watching Janae together now, holding her in our hearts while starting to let go, praying her passing will be easy and peaceful.
Today I will spend Thanksgiving with my husband and sons and a pretty girl named Kait who will find it difficult to make it through dinner without holding my younger son's hand. Janae will not be with us.
Instead she will be three miles away, hard about the business of dying. It isn't easy to watch. Janae's body has more life in it than most. I fear that it won't let go without a hard fight. But in the end, the body will give way. It always does.
Janae's faith instructs that when her soul leaves her body it will be rejoined with the Inner Master and then will find its way into another life, one that will be better for the hard lessons learned while ensouled in Janae. I hope she's right. I hope that her soul's next life will be as part of a large, close, loving family. Maybe my soul's next life can be a next door neighbor.
Sometime tomorrow morning I will drive to the nursing home. I will sit beside the narrow bed by the window in Room 29, holding Janae's hand and telling her stories of Thanksgiving day. I'll bring some bit of stitchery to show her in case she opens her eyes. I'll tell her to hang on a few more hours, long enough for her daughter to arrive with Janae's newborn first grandchild.
I will leave her then to her sleep, to the kindness of Hospice caregivers, to the hard business of cutting the cords that hold her to this life so she can fly to the next.