Spirits Having Flown, 1991. Painted following an agonizing visit to a special friend who lay dying in the hospital at the age of 22, suffering incomprehensibly. Color saved me, here.
To die is different than anyone supposed, and luckier.
NO warrior on any field of battle ever fought more bravely than had Scott at home and in the hospitals, but in the end his poor body simply couldn’t take anymore. His time had finally come. He had so earned his rest, but I was not prepared to let him go.
The night before, I had been up late typing up a schedule for the infusions and medications Scott required. I am trained as a lawyer, not a nurse, and was somewhat intimidated by the complexity of the medical challenges we faced together. Despite the severity of his condition Scott had insisted on remaining at home, and I was going to take every step possible to make sure his wishes were honored. Things were getting tough, though, with his first infusion starting at 6 a.m. and the last ending after midnight.
That morning I had started his first infusion, then gone downstairs for a quick breakfast. I brought the morning paper back upstairs and lay in bed next to him. Scott was so groggy and lethargic, so weak, that I grew deeply concerned. I called his doctor, who recommended that we check him in to the hospital, and then a friend to help me get him there. By then, Scott was far too breathless and weak to walk even short distances. So there we were, Scott nodding off and me laying by his side, somewhat anxiously, when he spoke to me.
"Hey," he said, quietly. I put down the paper and turned to him. His expression was radiant, his eyes closed and a sweet smile on his face. "What, honey?" I responded. Ever so softly, ever so peacefully, in a voice excited and childlike with awe, he said "I love this beautiful entryway we’re building together." Not understanding, I quickly asked "What? What entryway?" But he didn’t respond. "That’s strange," I thought to myself, becoming even more anxious as he seemed to drift further off into a world of his own.
Only in the hours after his death had I been able to start putting two and two together, to make the words add up. Scott had been transcending, was transfixed by the light, and had known no fear or dread, only anticipation. Even in those first raw hours after his death, I found myself comforted by the knowledge that he had died in a state beyond peace, one of joy. That he had not been afraid. And, mostly, that he had known I was right there by his side, as always. As his last act, he had reached back to me to let me know that he was all right, that he was pleased to be returning home, and that, in some miraculous way, our journeys were bound up one in the other.
Key Biscayne Trail P. Crockett
Angry people often die angry, and bitter people die bitterly. Scott made his passage in joy and thanksgiving as he reached back in a final act of love.
And that, I supposed, was the end of the story. I was wrong.
To Chapter 3