Yesterday I took dinner to Walter's family who is gathering to be with him now. Walter just returned home from the hospital.
I had a quiet, soulful visit, twenty minutes or so, just holding his hand. Almost 24 hours a day, Walter is “sleeping.” He's not eating or drinking now, so he didn't get to taste the food I had cooked for him. That's okay. The hospice doctors say he’s gone inside, to prepare for taking leave of this world.
I didn't want to say too much to Walter. We’ve always connected most deeply wordlessly on a heart level. I wanted mostly just to hold his warm hand and be with him. His breathing is very irregular. Long pauses separate rapid gasping breaths. Finally I know what I needed to say to him, even though I wasn’t at all sure he would hear me. Taking his hand a little more firmly I told him,
“I love you, Walter.” I supposed that he might be conscious of sound and touch, so I said just one sentence more.
“I’ll give your love to everyone at The Sutra Salon.” (I’ve appreciated Walter's regular participation in that group since 2003.)
When I finished saying these very few words, Walter still seemed comatose. But a couple of seconds after I finished, he turned to me and opened his eyes. We looked into each others’ eyes for eternal seconds. We both teared up.He tried to say thank you, but no words would come, just the most fundamental vowel, “ah, ah.”
Walter and I have chanted that “AH” sound together many times. It’s the name of God, isn’t it? “AH” appears in so many of God’s names, JehovAH, BuddAH, AllAH, KrishnAH, RAHma, YAHweh, come immediately to mind....
“AH,” the first sound we make upon birth (often screaming it) and the final sound me make as we exhale, peacefully, in our final breath at death, “ahhh.”
With the hand I wasn't holding, Walter wiped a tear from his eye. With the other he lightly squeezed my hand. Then his hand relaxed and he went back to his irregular breathing. He returned to the work he's doing now, his journey away.
I sat with Walter for a few more minutes. Finally, I let go of his hand, but have been holding him in my heart every minute since.