By mid-afternoon, there was no doubt that the pain had returned and Jon gave me another injection. With the help of the drug I was able to enjoy the “party” and visit with our friends later that evening. What I wished for when I blew out the candles probably wouldn’t seem like much of a cliff hanger, but in truth I wished for the Goddess to take me before things could get any worse. The last thing I wanted was for Jon’s head to be full of images much worse than he’d already seen.
I realized my wish hadn’t been granted when I woke the next morning and opened my eyes. Nope, I’m still here. Jon was sleeping soundly beside me and I listened to the steady sound of his breathing, unlike my own which was shallow and rasping. Be good to him, Goddess, he’s such a wonderful man. He doesn’t deserve this. Please don’t make him suffer. Jon’s eyes fluttered open and he shook himself awake, annoyed that he’d fallen asleep.
“Morning, baby. What can I get you?” he began his routine.
“Nothing, love” I wheezed, placing my finger to my lips for a kiss and then gently touching Jon’s face.
Everyone was leaving this morning, although they had all offered to stay. Jon had declined all manner of help that was offered and he appeared anxious for everyone to be gone. He knew there wasn’t much time and he was reluctant to share me with anyone else in the final hours.
Tico and Eva left first and said their goodbyes. I reached up to hug Eva, but she leaned down and planted a kiss on my forehead instead. Tico must have told her it was too painful to squeeze me. I was truly blessed to have such wonderful friends.
“I’m gonna miss you so much” Eva whispered through her tears and I squeezed her hand and nodded in agreement.
“Goodbye, my dear friend.” I said, “Eva, you helped me find my way in Jon’s world and I’ll always be grateful. When I needed a friend, you were there and you’ve been there ever since! I’ll miss you too.”
Eva lowered her head to allow me to kiss her before stepping aside for Tico to approach.
“Trish, it’s been my pleasure and my honor to call you my friend. I know we’ll meet again soon, but rest easy in the arms of the angels ’till then” Tico said, kissing my hand with genuine reverence as the tears rolled down my face.
Next it was Cherie and Jim who came to bid their farewell.
“Trish, you’ve been the sister I never had. I couldn’t have wished for a better one. It won’t be the same without you” she cried.
“Cher, you’ve been with me the longest, through good times and bad. Please don’t dwell on the bad times when there are so many wonderful things to remember. Just dwell on those, okay?” I begged.
“Oh, Trish, I’ll try” she cried harder, fleeing the room in distress and leaving Jim to say his goodbye to me privately.
“Jim…” I said softly and he came and sat on the bed.
“Trish, I know I’m supposed to be a writer and all, but I just can’t find the words…” he struggled as the tears rolled down his face. “I’ve always loved you, honey, and I always will” he said finally, recalling the term of endearment he’d used when we’d been together.
My heart was breaking beyond all imagining and I searched for the words I wanted to say. It was Jim, not my ex-husband, who’d been the other love of my life.
“Jim, my dear, wonderful friend…it won’t be forever. We’ve got lifetimes ahead of us still. Know that I’ve always loved you and remember, we’ll meet again” I managed to say before a fit of coughing made it too difficult to speak.
“Hush, my sweetheart, there’s nothing more you need to say” he assured me and he kissed me goodbye for the final time.
Jon and Richie were in the corner and there seemed to be some on-going disagreement as Carla came to my side. She explained that Richie wanted to stay while Jon wanted him to go and that’s why they were arguing.
“Trish, you’re Richie’s best friend and he wants to be here with you and I understand that. He has my support if you want him to stay, but just tell him what you want him to do. It needs to be up to you” she smiled wisely and I nodded.
“Tell him to come here and, thank you, Carla. I know you’ll take care of him” I said, my voice hoarser now with emotion and she nodded.
Richie came and sat down beside me and took my hand between his big paws. I could feel the warmth and the strength that emanated from him like a ray of sun against my cool flesh. I shivered and he pulled the blanket up tighter around me.
“Richie, I want you to go home with Carla” I began and he shook his head “no”.
“Richie, listen, please. It won’t be that much longer now and I want to spend what time I have left with Jon. He needs time alone with me, Richie, and I need time with him. Will you do this for us?” I asked.
“Of course, Trish, if that’s what you want” he relented finally. “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” he asked, just to be sure.
“I love that you would, but no. Jon and I need each other right now” and he bowed his head in silent understanding.
“Richie…” I whispered and he leaned closer.
“Yeah, babe, I’m here” he said in a strained voice.
“Take care of Jon when I’m gone” I rasped.
“I promise” he replied solemnly.
“And Richie? Take care of you. You’re my best friend and I love you more than anyone else in the world next to Jon. I need to know that you’ll be okay too” I prompted.
“I will” he said, his voice choking as he spoke.
“Look at me, Richie. Promise?” I demanded.
“Promise, Trish. Remember, you’re always right here” he smiled, pointing again to his heart.
“Here too” I smiled back, pointing to my own.
Richie and Carla took their leave then, but I knew Richie would be checking in on Jon and he’d be here for him once I was gone. Jon would not be alone and I could rest now as I was exhausted. But before Richie left, he took Jon aside and spoke his concern to his friend. It was one of the hardest things he ever had to do.
“Jon, you’re my brother and I’ll be here when you need me. Promise me that you’ll call me right away. I’m not leaving here until you do” Richie said firmly.
“I will, man, I will. I just can’t think about that right now, okay?” Jon said as he ran his fingers through his hair and kept nervously looking back over at me.
“Listen, Jon. One more thing, okay? When she tells you she’s ready, don’t hold her back. She’s hanging on just for you now and when she can’t hold on any longer, you gotta let her go, man. Don’t let her suffer, okay?” Richie said in a trembling voice.
“Jesus, Goddess, I don’t know if I can do that” Jon swallowed hard.
“You gotta, man. If you love her-and I know you do-you gotta do what’s right. Be strong, Jon. Be strong for Trish ’cause she needs you to be strong for her” Richie said finally and then he was gone.
I’d fallen into a fitful slumber and Jon called the doctor to ask how often I could have the morphine.The doctor told him I could have it as often as I wanted, but no more than a certain maximum dose per day. Jon hung up the phone and walked to my bedside and filled the syringe. It would be ready when I woke up and he sat down to wait.
Minutes turned to hours and the night came, bringing with it a soft, falling snow. Jon stood at the window and looked out. The moon was riding high in the sky and he turned his face towards the shimmering light and silently begged.
“Not tonight. Please, Lady, not tonight. Just give me tonight” he pleaded with all his heart.
Jon’s wish was granted and I opened my eyes just before midnight and called him to come to me. He crawled into the bed and helped me sit up, letting me rest my head on his shoulder. I had another two shots of morphine, and one final miracle as the pain receded for the final time and I was able to speak.
Jon and I talked and we took turns, remembering so many things from our past. We both vividly recalled that day in the sauna when our lives changed forever and we gave thanks for the many blessings we’d been given. Jon got the scrapbook I’d made him and we looked through it together. I’d added to it as time had gone on and along with the photos from the Handfasting there were pictures from the garden and our houses and our various trips…California, Sedona, Scotland, Germany, New Zealand…they were all there. There were very few photos of either of us alone as our life had been spent mostly shared.
Morning broke and the sun filtered in through the windows as we lay together in bed, Jon stroking my hair as I ran my fingers across the silver fur on his chest for the last time. We’d said all we needed to say and I knew deep inside that now it was time to just say farewell. Jon knew it too, but it was harder for him. Once I was gone, he’d still be here and that’s the part he most feared.
“Jon, I think it’s time. I’m ready to take my leave from this world. We’ll meet again in the Summerland, but until then you need to go on. Your time hasn’t come and you mustn’t hasten your journey. Promise me, love” and he nodded his understanding.
“There’s no need to rush, baby, because I’d wait an eternity to be in your arms once again. Someday soon we’ll walk again in the garden” I said with a sense of peace born of certainty.
“Trish, please don’t go, not yet. Please…” he began with tears welling up in his eyes.
“Ssshhhhh, my love, peace. Do this for me Jon, let me go and just sing to me for the last time” I whispered softly.
Jon swallowed hard and remembered Richie’s parting words and he willed himself to be still. He began humming softly as I looked into his eyes one final time before the light started to fade from my sight. I closed my eyes and traveled through time, back to the Summerland, where I would wait for Jon to join me again. I smiled once more as I passed into forever and I heard his voice softly singing.
I’ll be there till the stars don’t shine
Till the heavens burst and the words don’t rhyme
And I know when I die you’ll be on my mind
And I’ll love you always