Monday, December 17, 2007

Saying Goodbye

Janae Beau White Eagle was an incredible woman. She died just four days short of her 66th birthday. Born on the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Janae slipped out of this life quietly in the hours between one day and the next. No one was there with her. A nurse checked and Janae was there, and when she checked again my friend had gone.

Janae lived long enough to visit with her beautiful daughter and hold her precious grandbaby. Janae loved that baby deeply and dearly, even before he was born. She had time to be initiated into another level of her religion. She lived long enough to welcome death when it came.

Janae was a remarkable woman, self-made in many ways. She was an incredible artist and in recent years had earned her living as a professional quilter. Janae's quilting was incredible. The lucky quilters who have her stitches on top of their quilts own nothing less than a work of art.

At the end, we who loved Janae did our best to surround her with love, even if we couldn't be there all the time. Even though she seemed to be drifting, already halfway out of our world, I know she understood that we were there. I read from her holy book and sang a prayer for her that is important in her faith. We all told her we loved her.

Mostly we held her hand or stroked her hair or just sat beside the window in her room, watching the days grow shorter and darker.

And then she was gone.

Some of us gathered and toasted her memory with hot cider and cookies. Two or three three of us were hard about the work of emptying her house. We fulfilled the wishes of her will as best we could. And still had a house filled with things.

The sorting and boxing and labeling and such began before Janae died. It will be done for good Wednesday when Goodwill comes to take away the remaining boxes and bags. I don't think it will be sad. I have said my goodbyes. It hasn't been easy, spending hours at a time in her house, touching her things, listening for her laughter. But I have talked to her, I have sat in her house and cried until my eyes ached. I think now I can bear to let go of the last of her things.

Janae believed that we are all born over and over until we get it right. And that we share each lifetime with the same people, but in different positions. Maybe next time your husband will be your sister or you will be your aunt's mother. In many conversations, Janae and I came to agree that undoubtedly we had known each other in previous lives. We only shared this life for a year, but it felt like we had been friends forever.

I hope Janae was right. I told her that. During those last days I told her that, with her getting there sooner than me, she has to put the word in with the big Boss. No more of this stuff of finding my friend and then losing her so soon. This has been too hard to bear.

Next time, in the next lifetime that Janae and I get to share, we have to meet sooner.