Grief

Yesterday I pulled up in a cul de sac in Golden.   The app showed me that I was where I was supposed to be.  I waited the allotted four minutes but no Rebecca, so I called her and let her know I was there.  She answered and said “Oh this #&@##*% app, I am standing out here on the curb on Indiana”.  I could see that I needed to pull out of the little enclave and go out to find her on the sidewalk behind her back yard.  We stayed on the phone until I saw her waving down the street.  Yep, she was on the curb and had a selection of bags at her feet.  “I hope you don’t mind if I fill up your back seat”?  she asked.  “Feel free, it’s your ride.  Can I help”?  “No I have got it.  Thanks so much for not giving up on me.  The last Uber driver I used had the same issue and he just took off”. 

She settled into the back seat and we headed on a 15 minute ride to a brew pub near Colorado Mills (one of the many new ‘outdoor’ malls that have invaded this area.)  “I noticed your pioneer license plates, are you from around here”?  “Good eye, yep I am a fourth generation Coloradoan.”  I admit I wear that identity proudly in a place where generational natives are harder to find than parking spaces downtown.  She had stunning long silver-gray hair and I assumed her to be a first wave baby-boomer.  “I grew up in the Park Hill neighborhood, but now I live at Grand Lake”. Without missing a beat she went on to tell me she was here to share in a memorial service for her husband who had just died last week of melanoma.  “I have some familiarity with that disease, as I lost my cousin 14 years ago.  I walked through 194 days with him”.  “Funny you say that, it took 210 days for Jim”.  She than began to pour out a beautiful story of saying good-bye.  “He was a surgeon and he was very clear he wanted to be present to the end.  He did not want to live in a drug induced coma.  The two things he never quit doing was peeing in a urinal and drinking from a straw. He hugged me and kissed me the day he died”. 

I shared with her that I had walked the road of death and dying with a whole lot of folk since 1970. “I have watched people die in many ways.  It started with driving an ambulance for two years, and continued with nearly 41 years of being a pastor.   The one good thing about cancer is that it provides an opportunity for everyone to say goodbye”. She then began to tell me their story.  “These bags are filled with cigars, and cigar guillotines, a humidor, and other assorted cigar gear.  I am meeting his friends to hand it all over to them.  He loved great cigars and asked me to make sure all this found a proper home.  Everyday he would tell me he was sorry that he was leaving me.  The last day of his life we held each other, cried and said goodbye”. 

By this time her tears were streaming down her face.  “Grief is a gift…Damn it”!!! She laughed and cried at the same and she answered back, “Sunday 150 people will be celebrating his life…what a life.  I have no regrets, just gratitude”.  We spent the next five minutes fighting with the GPS.  We found her destination.   She unloaded her cigar stash and looked at me and said. “Today I got more than a Lyft – thanks”.   She gave me a very nice cash tip.  I didn’t want to take it but I know how important it is to smile and say thanks.  I sat there in the parking lot waiting for my next ride, thinking all the while about the sacred space in my red car 🚘 and the people who share more than a ride.

Onward and Upward,

Mark 

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