A few weeks ago Red asked me to read to her and talk to her when the time came that she could no longer talk back. That time came late Monday morning as she began transitioning, as one of the hospice nurses said.
Reading to her has been a regular thing since shortly after she left the hospital and moved into the hospice, when she began to regain strength after the ordeal of chemotherapy and other aspects of aggressive anti-lymphoma treatment. You may recall I put out a first installment of the Jeep Thompson saga after I read her the first half of the unfinished novel and she gave it a thumbs up.
From Jeep we went to The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and a collection of (of course) Ray Bradbury stories. For the last hours she had specifically asked me for my own writing, so Monday night and early Tuesday morning I added A Bridge at Crossroads to the mix. I just hope, when we meet again, she doesn’t tell me, “No! I wanted to hear Myke Phoenix and The Imaginary Bomb, not your prose poems!”
I’ve already mentioned that over the last couple of hours I read from the Gospels and Psalms. Of course, I was steadying my laptop with my right hand and giving her a ponytail with my left. It was my last opportunity.
Familiarizing myself again with the Sermon on the Mount was enlightening; there’s a lot of meat in there about living in a spirit of love. The Beatitudes are amazing. I left out some of the “if you lust after a woman, gauge out your eyes” stuff, focusing instead on the passages about turning the other cheek and not worrying about everyday troubles, for example.
It was interesting to me that as she faced her mortality, Red went back to her Catholic Church roots. It was not uncommon to find her watching EWTN when I came to visit. And going through Jesus’ teachings in those final hours, I can see where she might have found some comfort there. I certainly did.
One thing I learned with all of this reading aloud: You hear the words better when you hear the words. I have always adored Bradbury’s turns of phrase, but speaking them gave me even a greater appreciation. I realized, if I may say so myself, that some of my writing sings. And Jesus was a pretty tremendous guy.
I’m starting to think about what to do with the second half of this year that has been, for the first six month, the most horrible of my life. Red has been telling me for a long time to start making audiobooks. It’s long past time I listened to her advice.