Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
Surely everyone goes about like a shadow.
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
And now, O Lord, what do I wait for?
My hope is in you. (Psalm 39)
Robert Bruce MacLaughlin died yesterday. Rose called from the hospital room, the family and most of the band was there. I pictured the room. They would all be holding on to each other.
The day before yesterday Debbie and I had visited. That day the mark of death was upon Bob in a way it hadn’t been before. His grey body, like an empty carapace, was not the body of Bob.
And there were no more words from this man who had always carried the conversation. There was only groaning with what I thought was the deep intent of an articulation that never came. There was uneven breathing, sudden movements of eyebrows and eyelids and uncomprehending eyes.
And there was hand squeezing. This much there was. There was hand squeezing. It was his hands that looked the same, looked like Bob’s hands. Perhaps because so much of his life was in his hands, death seemingly could not take his hands.
We sat through the afternoon and watched a water-colour sun set in pastel outside the hospital room.
This room was a home for the past two and half months. A room where the windowsill filled quickly with vases and a rotation of flowers, where walls were eventually covered with pictures from family, cards from friends, home made posters from school children, drawings, placards, billboard notices, and more pictures. And there was music, in the end, classical.
This was home for more than just Bob. Home for his lady, his family, his close friends, some who faithfully came and sat at this side every day. Home for all kinds of grieving love and longing.
And now this man, who accepted much, readily accepted others, who picked up a friendship after years of gap without missing a beat, as if time evaporated, is now evermore accepted.