The dreams and sensations of Delle have been so strong in the last week, I found myself today reviewing emails that she sent out a year ago. A year ago today, she told her friends that it was time to go into Hospice care — that her almost four-year battle with Ovarian cancer would soon be over. "The squatter," as she called it, was winning the battle within her body, leaving her weak and resigned.
She visited me again last night. I was sitting with her in her room, just chatting away about life. I was always so dependent and so grateful for her wisdom and guidance! But these days, when the anniversary of her death is looming just around the corner, I find that the sense of her does not leave me when I wake. She is with me again, just as she was in the days after her death when I could feel her all around me. Why has she come back? Is there something I need to know or realize or understand? Or is her presence now only the residue of a heart's memory? Or the longing of a soul that has felt lost at sea without her navigator?
"Either we believe in eternal life or we don't," she chided us one year ago today. She wouldn't tolerate tears or a fuss being made. She didn't want to have to live our grief with us, it was just too overwhelming for her. Actress that she was, she kept herself together in those last days, careful not to reveal her suffering — propped on her fluffy bed of white linens and wearing a long starched nightgown. I was so grateful to spend an afternoon with her, and even more so to come back again the next day with the Eucharist — where she revealed her secrets and shared her suffering with me: her swollen legs, her white tounge, the ever-constant pain and the long draws for breath.
I don't spend much time thinking about heaven or hell — but on days like today, I pray that heaven is real, that we will all be together again someday, that God is merciful. The tears have begun and I expect there will be more in the coming days. Believing in eternity lessens the blow, takes a bit of death's sting away. I need the comfort of that belief today. I haven't had a good track record of faith in the concept of forever. But I want to believe that it's possible more than anything right now.