Grief
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After nearly three years of cancer therapy, my brother’s body was exhausted. There were no more options. Jim was dying.

 

Jim on the Westport RiverJim on the Westport RiverAfter nearly three years of cancer therapy, my brother’s body was exhausted. There were no more options. Jim was dying.

The previous week, I spent four days with him in his hospital room. We were often alone then. When he closed his eyes, I meditated. When he opened his eyes, we shared memories and hopes. Jim said he was an atheist, but no matter what he called himself, he was a practitioner of kindness. No matter how busy his life was or how important his career, he took time to offer help or to listen.

Elaine & Jim Ware 1945Elaine & Jim Ware 1945During his last day, a stream of friends, colleagues, and family came to say goodbye. His small hospital room was busy and sometimes noisy. When there was an empty space near his bed, I slid my hand under his hand or foot and silently repeated the mantra the Dalai Lama suggested for the dying. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. As the day went on, Jim’s breath slowed. By evening, only family and close friends were with him.

After dark, Amy arrived. She’d known Jim and his family most of her life. Amy smiled a gentle sad smile and hugged everyone. She sat near Jim’s bed and softly sang a song I didn’t know. Her body swayed gently to the lullaby. I swayed with her.

Westport RiverWestport River

River, take me along in your sunshine, sing me a song

Ever moving and winding and free

You rolling old river, you changing old river

Let’s you and me, river, run down to the sea. (River Song)

Amy, Thanksgiving 2008Amy, Thanksgiving 2008Amy knew how Jim loved the Westport River. I remembered the watery vision he’d shared with me the week before. In what he called a hallucination, he saw me on a boat, traveling across a body of water, crossing a border to be with him. He was nearing another border now, one he had to cross alone.

I picked up the chorus and sang with Amy. Let’s you and me, river, run down to the sea. Amy’s mother sang, too, and maybe others. My eyes were glued on Amy as I lip read her words.

Then I remembered the song my dad sang when Jim and I were kids: Swing Low Sweet Chariot. I started and Amy joined me.

With Jim in 2014With Jim in 2014Swing low, sweet chariot

Comin’ for to carry me home

Swing low, sweet chariot

Comin’ for to carry me home

If you get there before I do

Comin’ for to carry me home

Tell all my friends that I’m a-comin’ too

Comin’ for to carry me home

Jim’s breath was only a subtle movement in his throat. His face was relaxed. He was surrounded by people he loved. Sitting beside him with my hand touching his, I sang Woyaya (Sol Amarfio & Osibisa, 1973). Amy knew that song, too.

Jim's HandWe are going 

Heaven knows where we are going, 

but we know within 

And we’ll get there 

Heaven knows how we will get there, 

but we know we will. 

It can be hard we know 

And the road can be muddy and rough 

But we’ll get there 

Heaven knows how we will get there 

but we know we will

Woyaya Woyaya…

Jim left this life on the waves of a song running down to the Sea.

***

I’m grateful to my sister-in-law, my niece, and nephew for the love they shared and the support they gave my brother. I’m grateful to my brother for standing close when our father died in 1959 and again during my husband’s illness and death. Jim never once told me to get over it. In the midst of sorrow and sickness, Jim and I shared deep intimacy. For that, I will always be most grateful. For other articles about my relationship with my only sibling, see Holding Hands on the Threshold between Life and Death or Waiting for Another Dance.

Previously published May 3, 2016 at Elaine Mansfield: Grief Is a Sacred Journey

Book Cover Md smalllLeaning Into Love captures the heart from the extraordinary closeness of Elaine's marriage to how she and Vic transform their struggle th cancer and despair into a conscious relationship with mortality. After Vic's death, Elaine leans into her ongoing love as grief leads her through overwhelming emotional and spiritual depths on a journey beyond their time together into her new life.  Available in PRINT or E-Book.

 

 

 

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