Saturday, January 07, 2012

The 6 People You Say Goodbye to After you Leave

As soon as my wife handed me the phone I could tell that it something was wrong. She had a look of fear on her face. Jill knew what was coming. As soon as she jaded me the phone, I heard his voice I knew what happened. It was a month to the day that I had last spoken to his mother. I knew what he was going to say even before he was going to say it. Because during that conversation that I had with her the month prior, the first thing she said to me was, "Son, I've called to say goodbye, this is it. I am going to die."

Although she addressed me as son, I was not related to her. From the moment that we met she took a liking to me (for reasons that I fully never understood) and she made it a point to "adopt me." As a young soldier in the 82nd Airborne division I was far away from home and removed from my family. She had made it a point from our meeting to include me in her family for the next three years. Pretty much for every holiday I was over at the house being a part of her family. During the regular part of the year I was invited on family trips and to dinners out. For me it was a life saver. I hated Army life in that it was so different than anything that I had experienced. To have this new family in my life gave me a quality of life that was somewhat normal.

The morning I left the Army she was there at the bus stop and saw me drive off. She cried as the bus left and she faded from view in the early morning Italian fog. I ended a chapter in my life and began a new one. In the process many of the people that I had made friends with in the military had faded from my life as well.

For many years we had lost contact, but as soon as her son found me through an extensive search one of the first things I did was to make a trip to Idaho to introduce her to my wife.

Over the course of the last couple of years as my frined's heath was declining I was fortunate to spend time over the phone and have lenghty conversations. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer she had made the point to call her and give my mother a pep talk about survival, even as she was dealing with her own illness. "Hi, I'm Ed's other mother," she introduced herself over the phone to my mother.

One of the last things that she said to me during our final conversation was that I was one of 6 important people in her life that she want to have informed as soon as she was gone. It was a mere 45 minutes after she had died that I received the phone call from her son. He was on the highway headed home. It was a remarkable act on his behalf in as much as he had just lost his mother and he had to call an essential outsider to let them know that his mother died. However hard it was for him I was thankful to know that she was no longer in pain and that she was in peace. He did manage to go in to some detail about her last moments. I was so glad to hear about the fact that all of her family was there and that at the last moment, on her last breath, she looked into the eyes of her son, closed her eyes and stopped breathing. We are all going to die, but it was was reassuring to know that she left with all of her family around her.

After her son hung up I was overwhelmed with emotion. The fact that he had to call me to let me know that his mother had just died. The power of knowing that she was now gone, that she had to leave her husband, her children and grandchildren. She led a good life, had a fantastic marriage. I looked up to her relationship with her husband and felt that it was one of the best examples of true love and friendship that I have ever seen. So many questions rolled around my head. Why me? Why did she choose me? Why was I so important to her? She was such an incredible person, so to be chosen by her was just a powerful thought. Who were the other 5 people? Someday, I'd like to know.

Linda had visions and hopes for the people around her. She projected those positive visions for her family and friends. She was able to see her childern grow and become successful and happy and to see her grandchildren grow. I remember sitting on the porch at her home at Ft. Bragg and her saying, "someday you are going to meet someone and are going to be married, and I'd like to see that." I was glad that she was able to see my family and visit my home. In some small way it was a zen moment. Her vision had been complete.

As an outsider looking in things did not come easy for Linda and her family during the years in the military. Her husband and her worked hard for everything that they had. Even afterwards both of them worked hard to further their education and to establish a strong foothold in new careers and jobs. It was only later in their marriage that some success came to them.

"Son, don't worry, I've had a good life. I still have some things that I want to see and do. I want to make it through Christmas and New Years. Also, my team is going to the superbowl…I have to see that. Plus my anniversary is coming up, I can't miss that. And my birthday is coming up…Summertime, I hate the heat…maybe then."

You died on a Thursday.

Just a few weeks later her Green Bay Packers went to the superbowl and won. All of us who knew her had to have a moment to think about her and quietly smile. Even though I was not a fan of football or for that matter the Packers, there was some sense of universal justice to the fact that another hope of hers was now complete.

Her voice still even today resonates in my head. Occasionally when I think of her. She inturrupts me and I hear her, "Son, don't worry about me…I'm okay." With all that I have seen and heard, as all of our worlds have grown and changed for the better. It is what she wanted for all of us. She saw just about everything that she wanted to see for her family…so I know that she is okay.

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