Every mile I drove, sips of strong coffee I sucked down brought me a little closer to where I really didn’t want to be.
I scolded myself for my selfish mind that prayed that my car would break down, or that a shoot I just couldn’t turn down would pop up.
But alas, I arrived in Seattle.
There stood the strongest woman I’ve ever met, the soul I model my life after, the face I will see in the mirror twenty years from now, my Mom.
And she was broken.
No one else would see it.
No, that woman has the strength and grace of ten WWII generals, but I could see. I could see the tears that were just behind her smiling hazel eyes. I could see the exhaustion from her faux smiles in her laugh lines. I knew why.
The man she loved was dying.
A man she had loved for the past thirty years was slowly fading away in a cold Seattle hospital room, and my fix-it mom could do nothing but watch.
My internal iPod was stuck on repeat with the Death Cab for Cutie song, “What Sarah Said” crooning it’s melancholy lyrics.
“As I stared at my shoes in the ICU that reeked of piss and 409
And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself that I’d already taken too much today
As each descending peak on the LCD took you a little farther away from me.”
The tiny figure in the bed that resembled Doby from Harry Potter, I was told was Tim. A man I had loved before I knew what knowing someone was.
He had been my Mom’s best friend my entire life. He was one of my first crushes, I had dreamed of one day marrying the Randy Owen’s (lead singer of Alabama) look-a-like when I was six.
His loud voice, love for bad movies, “bad” beer and biting humor had been a constant in our lives.
When our father left us, Tim stepped in and swept my Mother off her feet, convinced her that a best friend could be so much more.
But the timing was never right, so he waited.
My mother had a double mastectomy, then got meningitis, followed by parvo, my grandfather died suddenly, my grandmother started to die from Alzheimer’s… and suddenly six years had past and they were still living in “sin.”
When they heard from the doctors that Tim’s time was running out, Tim was crushed, barely older than fifty he never believed that he would only have one more summer.
Summer bloomed with the hopes that Tim had five years, June brought three, July two and by August it was becoming clear that they wouldn’t make their Christmas wedding.
So they bumped the date to Thanksgiving.
Then to Oct. 2.
Monday I got the call from my Mom I had been dreading, but expecting.
She tried to be strong but quickly broke and told me I should come, I packed a bag in such a haste I left everything I needed behind, but packed three pairs of tennis shoes and a black swimsuit.
She told me she had gotten a licence, but he had to just make it to Thursday because of the three day waiting period.
I was so afraid Thursday was going to come too late when I saw him for the first time.
But I slapped on my cheerful face and begun wedding planning and shopping with my mom.
I’d done this before, with Grandma. I care for her while Grandpa slowly slipped away after his sudden stroke.
The love she had for him, the pain that would tear at her while she watched him die ripped into me for the week that he lay in a coma.
Sitting Tim’s room watching a lame reality tv show, Death Cab popped up again.
“Amongst the vending machines and year-old magazines in a place where we only say goodbye
It stung like a violent wind that our memories depend on a faulty camera in our minds
But I knew that you were a truth I would rather lose than to have never lain beside at all
And I looked around at all the eyes on the ground as the TV entertained itself.”
As she curled, powdered and primped for the simple bed side ceremony you could tell she only allowed herself to get so excited.
For months she had been the perfect blushing bride, planning every detail for their nuptials, making my own wedding planning seem lame. The quietness she emoted was in complete contradiction of her upcoming wedding bliss, she was stuck between grief and joy in a painful paradox.
Some simple words, a couple signatures, and Tim was no-longer just a family friend, but my Step-Dad, my mother’s beloved husband.
There would be no honeymoon. No lovely hotel suite. No rocking chairs on the porch when they grew old and let their hair turn gray.
They only had then, that beautiful moment.
My friend John Lok posted on his facebook shortly after a quote from Steve Jobs, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered(…). Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
There they were, no more excuses, no more far off plans, just a room of love.
The final line from the Death Cab song slipped through my head as I kissed them goodbye.
“Love is watching someone die”