He was working when he got the call from a relative with the ‘bad’ news. Our friend, already terminally ill, was beyond that diagnosis and his time was fleeting. Would he come to visit for the final performance? There was no hesitation and in a way, it was an honor to be asked to witness the farewell painful as it might be for everyone. Of course there are many factors which can speed up or delay the inevitable but from the perspective of one trained to recognize symptoms, the final call was not difficult to make and in fact “any time” was suggested as the conclusion.
He arrived and entered the small den-like room where his friend was waiting for the closing curtain to fall. The room was adjacent to the kitchen area where several people were busy preparing a meal for the noon day gathering. He spoke to the principal and seated himself on the couch near where the hospital bed was placed with the head raised at an angle so that the full face was easily witnessed. The eyes were closed but there was one obvious sound present; breathing which was somewhat forced and erratic with episodes that caused the observer to question if it would continue but eventually, another sign of life brought a glimmer of hope.
His wife was in and out trying to deal with what was not to be denied yet she was brave and did her best to be the good hostess even in such a time of trial. She was not willing to give up despite the impossible odds denying her held-to-the end belief that things would be better.
He watched the lifelong friend struggle with every breath and wondered how long this could continue. The answer was sooner than expected. Suddenly there was silence in the room although the noise from the kitchen continued. He realized that the end had arrived and after waiting briefly, he arose, walked to the kitchen and embraced his waiting friend, now without her companion for almost 50 years. “Any time” had arrived and there was a sense of peace since the battle for life had been intense.
The news spread to others present and most witnessed the final tribute, a kiss and then reverently, the sheet was pulled over his face. It was over … for now.
For whom does the bell toll?
Bill Lee, PO Box 128,
Hamer, SC 29547