Yesterday I helped plan a funeral with the person whose funeral it will be.
We talked. I was in a hospital chair wondering why hospital chairs, indistinguishable from a million other chairs, take on a hospital feel. My friend lay above and in front of me, tubed-up. One tube drained waste fluid through his nose into a glass jug on the floor and another piped clear liquid from three plastic bags into his arm. “Everything you need to live on,” he said. “You could live on that stuff for years.”
But years are not what he has. Yesterday it was hours, today things are looking up, days perhaps, maybe weeks and maybe strength enough for another gig he promised to play for. A Patsy Cline tribute.
I asked him what it was like to talk about his funeral. Was it hard? He said no, that in fact it was almost comforting. He felt he was somehow fortunate to have the chance. I asked him if he was afraid of dying. He said no and I wondered if he was being straight with me and then he said really if you think of it, if there’s nothing after this I will never know and if there is I’m sure it will be better than this. Looking at him, smaller now, distended stomach, all kinds of frozen cancerous blocks keeping him from finding any Northwest passage out of here, it was hard to refute the logic.
He said he had a faith. It was his own. He believed in Jesus but left the field open for other possibilities. Nothing wrong in trying to cover all the bases.
He expressed being amazed by all the love that was coming through door. He wanted me to say something about this in my eulogy.
He wanted me to talk about his music, his love, his accomplishments, he wanted to leave a footprint. I knew for example, that after a generation of playing rock, country, jazz, he took up classical guitar and on the Royal Conservatory grade five exam he received the highest marks in Alberta. Music mattered, was a force in his life. But he was also aware of what it cost him and we talked about regrets for a while.
He talked about the life lessons he learned and wondered why they only came at the end of life. We talked about that being as good an argument as any other, for something interesting ahead.
When I left he hung on to my hand for a long time.