Friday, August 29, 2008

What I Came To Say

(note: lyrics in italics from John Mayer's "Say.")
Before you read this post, go to the sidebar and turn on the music as you read. Trust me.

He was fifty years old and I loved him.
But I hadn't always.

I thought him gruff. Shallow. Far far removed from my sphere of compatibility. In fact, we had absolutely nothing in common save the one tether between us - his younger brother was my once-upon-a-husband.
And we didn't get along.

I thought at the time I couldn't stand him. We spoke only when necessary at family gatherings through the twenty-six years I was married to his brother. I was happy with that arrangement.
That is, until the day came when....

Take all of your wasted honor. Every little past frustration. Take all of your so called problems, Better put 'em in quotations. Say what you need to say

.....many years later one February morning in the middle of an early spring day of unlikely and brilliant daffodils, I watched my grown son lift his body - frail, thin, seared with cancer - and place him gently on the couch.
They'd counted on each other for two years. One for rides to radiation, chemo, and sworn secrets of doom in the doctor's office and the other for unlikely wisdom and guidance that can only be given by a dying man.
My brother-in-law requested the former.
My son desperately needed the latter.

A five year diagnosis slipped back to three.....then two...and then there was no time. Sometimes late at night when he was in pain and couldn't sleep, my son would put him in his pickup truck and ride him around to his old favorite haunts. He found comfort in the motion, and I suspect, a twinge of macho satisfaction out of kicking my son's stubborn butt, for lack of a better euphemism, when he needed it the most - and holding him accountable.
I would give anything, now, to hear what was said during those long rides down country roads.

A day came when he asked to see me even though I'd long divorced his family. I went. But I was not prepared for what I saw. Years of smoking. Laryngeal cancer. A voice box. A silent ravaged bear of a man.

Walkin' like a one man army,
Fightin' with the shadows in your head.
Livin' out the same old moment
Knowin' you'd be better off instead
If you could only...Say what you need to say

"Mama, he wants to talk to you," said my tear-stained boy who held his uncle's hand on the other side of the sofa bed - and then - without regard for a room full of people watching, covered his uncle's hand with both of his and kissed him.

Have you ever seen unabashed love flow between two grown men? It was, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful things I'd ever witnessed.

He gestured for me to walk over to the couch. I did not understand what he was trying to say. He would lift his arm toward me and touch the index finger to his thumb over and over again.
What is he saying? I asked.

"Just a little time,
" my son said, "he's trying to tell you there's just a little time."
I hugged him and he mouthed the words "I love you". I left in a puddle of tears, wondering how grace, unspoken and palpably real, could fall through silence like that.

The look on my son's face as he ministered to his beloved uncle day after day took on a spirit of devotion and pride. He was not well himself and struggling without a compass. Until Dee.

They were inseparable. He picked up his daughter at school for him, took care of his lawn, his hunting stands, his dogs, his medicine, kept his medical "secrets", the details of his life - while he tried to eek out one more day on this earth - and in doing so, without saying a word, left an eternal imprint on the face of my child.

It's funny. We'd never shared any semblance to what I considered a deep or meaningful exchange of words, barely more than a 10-minute nod to each other our whole lives. We were worlds apart intellectually and philosophically. He frankly irritated me. And I'm guessing life with me as his sister-in-law was no picnic either. My way wasn't his way and his way wasn't mine. He wanted to clean guns and fish on Sundays. I hated those things. What could I possibly have in common with him? Not a thing. I looked at him strangely. His values. His hobbies. His interests. Trust me, he was, as I've come to understand, just as thrown by mine. But he always had a certain twinkle in his eyes when he talked to me and a barreling laugh. Why couldn't I have appreciated, then, that silly laugh. I would have given anything to hear it - and his grumpiness - again.
As the time passed and he grew weaker, I began to see a profound change in my son. Besides the "If you don't get your act together I'm gonna kick your ass" speeches (one of Dee's favorite phrases) that most assuredly occurred in that pickup truck late on more than one occasion, the man who could not speak could say more with one kick-pants look than all my mother-nagging speeches had ever done.

My waffling boy had gained a sense of self-respect simply because someone needed him. Who knew it was that simple?

Have no fear for givin' in. Have no fear for giving over. You better know that in the end....

When I tell you that the transformation I saw in my boy during that time saved his life, I am not exaggerating. He changed. He morphed into manhood. An evolution that began on dark and deathly country roads in the middle of the night..... words doled out in loving bits and painstaking pieces by a man who could not speak - but had a lot to say.

So did I.

It's better to say too much, than never to say what you need to say again.

And so it day....the call came. "Mimi, it's time. It won't be long. We thought you should know."

Predictably, it was his way. Again.
And he had one more lesson for me.
About speaking up.
And having no regrets. And leaving nothing unsaid.

asked to be alone with him. I had to let him know what was in my heart. I wanted to see those midnight rides in his eyes. I wanted to tell him what he'd done. He reached out for me and smiled. After a hug or two, I couldn't postpone my words one more second. His 190 lb. body had shriveled to well below 100. He was fading. I thought my heart would explode with sadness.
Even if your hands are shaking, And your faith is broken. Even as the eyes are closin',
Do it with a heart wide open.....

I shut the door and took his hand. "I had to come today and tell you....I had to thank you....for what you have done for him." The tears started to flow between us and mine fell on his face. " He would not be here today if not for you." As we talked and laughed about the twists and turns through the years and this uncommon thread of precociousness between us, a peace came over his face and a sigh.... I wondered how all those years ago I'd missed this part of him. And suddenly, it became abundantly clear that the superficial differences paled in comparison to the one thing in the world we had in common and loved with all our hearts.
My son.

He smiled. He cried. He nodded as if to say, "He'll be alright, Mimi."

And he was right.

"Of all the wonderful things you have done in your life, I told him, "know that this is one of the most important things you've ever done. I love you. I've really always loved you."

I kissed him for the last time and left with a sense of closure and faith. Somehow, between the morphine, mercy, and loving friends and family, he'd found his peace with God. I felt it with him there and knew he was not afraid that day. About a week later, I sang Amazing Grace at his funeral service. I was so proud to honor him - and so humbled. His simple acts of kindness - and unspeakable insight into my flesh and blood heart and soul- placed him in my book of angels on earth. Only he and I really knew just what his dying days meant to my wayward young man - whom he'd entrusted to carry his body to his final resting place, laid ever so gently - you guessed it - on the back of his pickup truck.

And this man, whom I once thought inarticulate and aloof, pulled a fast one even that day.... in the form of letters - individual love letters he'd laboriously dictated to his Hospice nurse and sealed until the time. He could not tell us how he felt so he'd written it down. As she stood to open the envelopes in the chapel - one by one - we all heard him speak. The big and burly man of few words and little education hovered ever so strongly above us. The power of well-chosen eternity laced words that slayed me.

I have never heard a finer sermon delivered.
Nor one filled with more love.

Say what you need to say Say what you need to, Say what you need to... Say what you need to say.

Do yourself a favor and listen, please, to John Mayer's "Say." It was the inspiration last night for me to finally put this story into words.

 Copyright © 2008 Mimi Lenox. All Rights Reserved.


Akelamalu said...

That brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat Mimi. I listened to the song and I love the words, both of the song and what you've written m'dear. Thank you for sharing this. x

Desert Songbird said...

I'm not sure I'm strong enough to listen to the song yet, Mimi. But I read your words and...well...

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

mimi that was so beautifully written honey...

smiles, bee

ciara said...

i'm bawling like a baby over here. this was so touching and beautiful. the song fit perfectly. the message is clear. thanks for sharing. xo

Bud Weiser, WTIT said...

That was as moving a post as I have ever read. What he gave your son, no money could buy. Thanks for sharing it...

Margo Moon said...

Beautifully, artfully done.

Charles Gramlich said...

One man loses his life but passes that life onto another. I suppose that is all one can hope for. and I suppose that is enough for a life.

Powerfully written. Very effecting.

Ferd said...

(cried my eyes out)

Thank you, Mimi, for a glimpse into some important moments of your life, and for lessons I can use.
You never cease to amaze me.
Got a kleenex?

Carver said...

Dear Mimi,

I read this in awe of your ability to express your heart and thoughts and tell so much about this man in this beautiful post. As ever, Carver

Babs (Beetle) said...

I am left almost speechless! Beautiful message and beautifully written.

Travis said...

Wow. His legacy flows from him to your son to your grandson. And you get to be a part of it. How wonderful for you.

Mimi Lenox said...

Akelamalu - The song is amazing. I hope I never lose sight of what it means.

Songbird - Come back and listen. It's an incredible song.

Bee - Thank you, Bee. I know you understand the unspoken nuances in this piece.

Ciara - The message is that I need to apply this to every single day of my life - in ALL my relationships.

Bud - Priceless. Eternal. I'm still in awe of what he did.

Margo - I appreciate that.

Charles"One man loses his life but passes that life onto another."
Exactly. And thank you.

Ferd - Lesson I need too...every day of my life. I hope I never forget and take people for granted.

Carver - Thank you for reading and expressing your thoughts here too. He was truly a unique man.

Babs - It took me forever to put this on paper. And there are many more stories to tell....

Travis - I could never repay him for what he did. Not ever.

Jeff B said...

Wow! Quite a pale response to such beautifully penned words, but I'm at a loss for anything more.

Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

JohnH985 said...

A very beautiful post. Thank you for sharing.

Terra Shield said...

It's a lovely post. And Say accompanies it so well.

Linda said...

I'm not sure what to say so I shall say nothing except very nicely done. Dee sounds like he was a wonderful man and your son was very blessed to have him in his life.

Ralph said...

This is wonderful. It is never too late to realize what greatness there can be in a man's life...and to say so! Your words showed ho much his life meant to you. Even prior to the realization of what he meant to your son, the a glimpse as to the greatness in a man's life.

He was at peace and unafraid in the fullest due to you. You were there when it counted!

JennV said...

I happened to follow a certain Dustbunny over here because of a purse Meme and found a blog I'll be visiting often!

What a heartfelt and touching post... I am in awe.

Leigh said...

Mimi, I can honestly say that I have never read anything as touching as this post. You have me in tears.....
what a wonderful and very moving tribute. The circle of life, indeed.
Beautiful. Poetic. Humility.
Thank you for sharing this.

Olga, the Traveling Bra said...

Oh God........Mimi...this beautiful story of forgiveness and compassion could not have come at a bettr time for me...thank you.

Speedcat Hollydale said...

So powerful and compelling. You have told this story so well I could almost see it unfold before my very eyes. Incredible, touching, and heartfelt Mimi. I guess I am stunned a bit, and was not expecting a post of this nature.
I am going to find the song and listen.


Amazing Gracie said...

You brought me into the scene so vividly. I need to always remember this lesson. I do believe this is one of the most memorable posts I have read - along with the post about the stones...You are truly blessed with a rich gift of crafting words.

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