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Sunday, August 2, 2009


Jim and I went on a picnic today into Rocky Mountain Park. In the past, this has been a very habitual event. We pack everything into a bag, throw in a bottle of wine, cheese, crackers, and some chocolate. Jim always gets two thighs at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Our routine never changes, in terms of the food, the time, and we almost always go to EndoValley Picnic Area at the foot of Fall River Road. We actually have two or three favorite picnic areas there, ones with sun, and a bit of shade, and not too close to the toilets.

This past week Jim and I have not spent a lot of time together. We've had wonderful family time that I will remember forever. Close, close laughing and talking times with his children and sister, and ex-wife Lee. Joyous times of watching grandkids, sitting in front of the fire, but through it all, not much alone time.

When I met with Anne Lundquist, the hospice social worker on Thursday, to talk about anything and everything, the one thing she said to me, is that "this is the best he will be, every day will be a step farther downhill" and that we needed to make the most of these days. So I left that meeting thinking Jim and I needed to have some one-on-one time. The problem is when we took it, we didn't know what to say to each other.

The normal flow of conversation was stilted because a third presence was with us today, and that presence was death. Our conversation was difficult because a lot of the everyday things we talk about are future oriented. Quite often we discuss our plans for the week, or upcoming events or activities and who's going to do what when. Hospice information urges that a dying person and their family focus on the day-to-day, and not the future.

As we drove into the park, we were very quiet in the car, and when we sat at the picnic table, we toasted, tapped plastic cups, and ate. And we didn't say a word for 20 minutes at least. The sun felt warm on my back, my food was good, but I didn't know what to say. All the things I could think about to say seemed trivial, and I wanted this day to be special. As the battle of words/no words raged in my head, I realized that the problem wasn't being silent, it was the difference of being so silent that made me anxious.

Once I could figure out why the silence bothered me so much, I was able to acknowledge that this picnic isn't like any picnic we've taken before. Although everyone starts dying the minute you're born, we're sort of on the fast track dying process, and we don't have any rules for it. And as Lara said to me, "there are no etiquette books about the dying process, it's a new situation for all of us." I realized that it was like being with Jim on one of our first dates, where we were just getting to know each other, and that in fact, I felt shy.

We aren't the same people today, as we were three weeks ago. We don't have the same concerns, and we don't have the same worries. What we do have is this small bit of precious time to just be. So our quiet silent picnic became a very precious time indeed, because we were sitting in the sun, being together, and a lot of stuff that seemed important in the past, turned out to be not very important at all.

As I write this, I urge all of you, to live in the present, at least once in a while, and just be. Don't worry about all the mundane trivial stuff that wears us out, and takes our time, and saps our strength. Once in awhile just be. Sit in the sun with someone you love, and let the future go, and relax in the warmth of the present.

Love and peace to all of you.

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