If you had just four weeks left before you had to leave friends forever how would you chose to spend your time with them?
For quite some time now a friend and I have been visiting an elderly gentleman once a week. We began it as part of a project with age action, which means we visit someone who is living alone. I say ‘we began it’ , because initially we began it in order to bring company to someone who needs it, it has become so much more than that to us.
Each Thursday as we sit with our ‘friend’ I cannot begin to tell you the fun we have. This man is a tall, fit man, with a mop of white hair, and deep brown eyes. He has the most beautiful soft kerry, sing song Irish accent, and a bold smile that spreads to his eyes, which twinkle with mischief. However age is beginning to take it’s toll and our friends eyes are failing, rendering him almost blind, and his gait is unsteady at times. His family live in England, and as I wrote before here, the decision has been made for him to sell up his house and home, leave the country he loves and move to a new life alongside his son.
Last week as we called by as usual, he broke the news to us that he would be gone in five weeks. Four more visits. We knew this day was coming but it still came as a shock. As he told me the news his eyes filled up, words failed him and he just stood there, looking every day of his eighty one years. When he did speak he said, ‘I’m broken’. Then as always he rallied, looked at me, shook his head and sighed saying, ‘Ah that’s life I suppose, but I am going to miss this great country’.
A week has passed and the news has sunk in. On one level he is still heartbroken, but there is also a part of him now looking forward to spending time with his family, who are obviously very fond of him. So with time limited my friend and I had been talking together. We had decided to offer to take him on a day trip, to someplace that meant a lot to him. To give him the chance to return there, for what would surely be one last time. We were looking forward to suggesting it to him, and the prospect of sharing the day with him.
So today we told him of our wonderful idea and his reaction was not what we expected. Firstly he felt it would be too much of a bother to us, but having assured him otherwise he was quiet. I asked him what he was thinking, and in my mind I was wondering was he thinking of all the places he would like to return to. I was wrong. He looked up at me and said, ‘I cannot imagine having as much fun anywhere else as we do just sitting here’. I was taken aback. We tried to convince him otherwise but he was not for changing. We stayed chatting as always, but as we did I began to look at our time together through his eyes. I sat back and listened enthralled by another of his wonderful stories, and I watched his face change as he broke into a hearty laugh at something I was saying. The conversation never lulled, not even for a moment. He was really alive and animated, greatly enjoying the craic, and I understood his decision.
Eventually it was time for us to go. As usual our friend walked us out the path to the gate. Patiently he waited for us to turn our cars, and with a smile he waved us off, shouting ‘Bye now, love ye’. As I drove away I thought, only three more weeks. Tonight as I write this I think to myself selfishly, how happy I am that he chose not to go anywhere, for I only want to sit with him in his comfy front room, listening to his stories, and laughing together for as long as we possibly can. Until the day when we wave him goodbye and shout after him, ‘love ye’.