Several months back, a woman I know from my last location died. Her death wasn't entirely unexpected, but her departure left a gaping hole for many people, especially her husband. She'd been his bride for nearly 42 years.
About two months after she died, I called him because I had been thinking of him, and though I sent a card immediately after I heard about her death, I had done little else. My experience is that when someone close to me dies, i'm usually quite busy immediately following the death but a few months after, when most of the Things that Need Doing are done, I find myself really starting to ache. So, after a few days of pushing away the desire to dial the phone, I caved.
He was glad to hear from me, and we talked for nearly two hours. We laughed, we cried, and he did most of the talking whilst I did most of the listening. Towards the end of the phone call, I told him if he needed a geographic change for a few days, he was welcome to visit; we've got a big guest room. I went on to say I knew it wouldn't fix anything, but sometimes a change of scenery is welcome, and as he likes hotter temperatures, he should wait until summer was in full swing here and even then to bring long sleeves and trousers because it often gets chilly at night.
He thanked me for the offer, and I wondered if I sounded too much the way some people do when they want to supply comfort. They say stuff, and mean it, but there's no follow through.
I also told him he could call at any time. Which he could. Again, I knew although I really and truly meant it, and although he knew that, he most likely wouldn't. He's always been a very private person and, like me, prefers to work things out by himself.
So it was with some surprise when I found him on the other end of the phone when I picked it up about two weeks back. He was quite chatty and told me he was going to take me up on the invite offer.
JoJo is a bit put out since this is the third person to be sleeping in "her" bed this summer (she claims the guestroom bed as her own). I couldn't get a lot of time off work, but I did supply him with area maps and goings-on so he can explore a bit on his own. Phoebe has deemed him worthy of allowing him to be her doorman, even if he doesn't understand she needs to be pet as well and complimented, but he shows promise that he can be trained.
He's been a wonderful houseguest. He cleans up after himself, selected a wonderful wine to go with last night's dinner, and we've laughed and talked a lot.
He didn't come with when I had my piano lesson. I didn't expect him to want to sit there while I was murdering something on the keys, the way I do when first learning a new-to-me piece, but I thought he might want to walk around the town during my lesson, as it's in a different one from where I live.
I returned from my lesson to find his eyes a bit red. He started reading an anthology of poetry I had and the page fell to the Thomas Hardy section. Many of the Hardy poems in that anthology concern themselves with loss and death. He read aloud "I Look into my Glass," and I could feel tears well up in eyes.
"I should have gone with you," he said.
I nodded in agreement, but sometimes, a piece of poetry can remind us that we are not the first or only ones in a place of hurt, and comfort us in a way that nothing else can.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do when friends are hurting, is to provide a loving space where they can simply be as they process their pain. Years ago, when my grandmother was dying, this friend had done that for me. And, while i'm sorry he's in a place now where the roles are reversed, i'm only too glad to repay my debt of gratitude as much as I can.