Monday, March 30, 2015

Honoring A Great Man And A Great Friendship

For months now I have been trying to come up with some way to honor my late husband Ed on the 5th anniversary of his death. 
Those 5 year milestones seem to be more important for some reason and I wanted to do something special. I considered having one of our legendary oyster roasts we were famous for in the backyard, some sort of fund raising event to give back to a coastal preservation group he was passionate about or our local non-profit hospice I am passionate about. After all the thinking and debating I still could not come up with anything that seemed just right.

A few weeks ago I still had not thought of anything that resonated with me as the right thing to do when I got a call his best friend, Eli, was very sick. He and Eli met in 1976 when they both moved to Wilmington, NC. When I came in to their picture, I learned to care about and love Eli as a great friend also.

Eli lived about an hour from me and when learning of how sick he was I began going almost daily to his house and doing what I could for him. He was an extremely private and independent man so allowing me to help him was huge. On one of those days he looked at me and said “I dreamed about Ed last night for the first time”. I asked what it was about and he said he didn't remember the entire dream just Ed saying to him “Hey buddy, you want me to take the lead on this or do you want it”. He and I both knew what that meant and we didn't have to even say it.

Eli’s physical state was declining very rapidly and I saw all the signs of impending death. During that time we had many conversations about his affairs and what his wishes were. In one of those he asked if I had any of Ed’s ashes left and I assured him I did. He asked if I would mix some of Ed’s ashes with his and scatter them in what is now called 'Ed’s Field' at the area they hunted in. It was the same place Ed wanted some of his scattered and was done about six months after he died with his hunting buddies present. Eli then asked if I would mix some of Ed’s ashes with his and scatter them in the place the two of them flounder fished more times than could be counted. That request took my breath away for a second. Five years later, that is the only place I have not put Ed’s ashes that he requested. Now, I can mix the ashes of these two great friends, maybe gather up some more of their friends on their boats and celebrate these two individuals lives and how they touched all of us in their own unique and special ways.

When I began taking care of Eli, at the end of his life, I promised him I would hold his hand through this journey and I physically did that constantly. The power of human touch is so incredible and I believe, especially at the end of our lives, just like a mother/child bonding at the beginning of our lives. Holding someone’s hand who is dying is an amazing and beautiful experience. No one should die alone and no one should die without someone holding their hand if at all possible. Being that person is humbling and such an honor.

I was once again reminded of “two things I know for sure; things change and I will be happy”. Things certainly did change with MY plans to honor Ed on this anniversary. His plan and maybe HIS plan was not what I would have chosen. The most amazing and incredible way to show that honor though was to care for his best friend in his last days. I know that it was no coincidence Eli died on the 5th anniversary of Ed’s bi-lateral lung transplant. Eli knew the significance of that day because your lung transplant anniversary becomes like your birthday, maybe more important. We had talked about it the week before and how we were both surprised it had been 5 years already. He and Ed probably conspired to make it on that day.

So tomorrow will come and it will be the 5th anniversary of the last day on earth of a great man. I will do something quiet and private because he and Eli already took care of doing something big to celebrate it. 
I can’t top that. 
That in itself makes me happy.