For Paula

This morning I awoke in the land of the living but someone I loved for decades did not. Her long life ended peacefully last night, and the world is emptier this morning. God wants me to edit that last line because it isn’t quite accurate from God’s perspective, but I’m not going to. From my perspective, one of the gentlest, most generous people I’ve ever known is gone, and the world is emptier. From God’s perspective, all things transform. Time is an elastic metaphor God uses to teach us about love. I don’t like today’s lesson. Love is costly and painful for linear beings.

The last time I saw her, with some hesitation, she let me hold her hand, birdlike bones covered in bruised, paper-thin skin. She recognized the warmth of my hand. That’s all. Most of her had already melted away. During that visit, God spent his time in the kitchen making chocolate cake. She and her roommates, the vacant people in their vacant chairs, still relished a bite of warm cake with a touch of ice cream.

But there comes a time when there is nothing left to relish. The curled body tightens into a perfect circle, and it is done. Finished. A life has been accomplished. The final grades are in. The eternal vacation of liquid soul has begun. But God objects again. He claims there is no beginning. No end. Only flow. And again, I refuse to edit. And I cry. And God cries.

This is the thing I like about God. He willingly gets linear and crawls right into the pain. He sobs, surrounds, and sits with me. He reminds me how many ways there are to die, and we marvel together that I have this day. This moment. That’s all.

The Mystery fractures into light. Photosynthesis begins. The Bread of Life is chocolate cake. The Living Waters of her endless kindness flow to the sea, and there the kindness shall flow again. There we shall all flow again. She loved walking on the beach, collecting sand dollars, remembering the clam digs. I wish we’d walked there more, but I’m grateful for the times we did. I see her knobby feet in the sand, her old-lady pants rolled to the knee, her face turned to the endless horizon. “Safe travels,” I whisper as the Mystery takes her away. I’m pretty sure I saw her wave.

18 thoughts on “For Paula

    1. Thanks Joyce. I posted a comment to you, but it seems to have disappeared, so sorry if this is redundant. She was such a steady loving presence for so long, it was hard to see her disappear into dementia, but the finality is also hard. Big hugs.

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  1. I can’t find good words to speak after reading this but perhaps my tears will suffice. Your life is obviously so much richer for having known Paula, Rita, and your gratitude says it all. That God is with us in the pain and sorrow is maybe all we need to know. Peace, peace, peace.

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  2. Tears on the computer keyboard. Paula was a gift to me. To my family. My daughters still make her cheesecake recipe. I will miss her. I have missed her for several years. I loved her. She was a gentle, kind soul. So giving. Always smiling. My heart breaks in a thousand pieces and ways for Max. Her lover. Her pal. In the still of the night I think of Max and Paula and ask ‘why did it have to end like this for this loving couple?” No answer. I know Paula is at peace and in a better place. I really don’t know where that place is to tell you the truth. But I do know this…she will be in my heart as my friend forever. Thank you for the lovely tribute she so richly deserves. K

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    1. Thanks Kaye. I think we are communing in the “still of the night” as I ask those same questions. We should visit sometime. I have endless thoughts on the matter…and am working on a book in that general area…So glad we both got to share in the Max and Paula magic and love. Hugs, Rita

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  3. Thank you for this loving tribute to your lovely friend. I’m so sorry for your loss. I appreciate your sharing of various anecdotes about your friendship with her and the lovely picture of you two. You were…and are…two pretty “little girls.”

    We humans are scary creatures. I’m glad that the good Lord wired us in such a way that we could break through our isolation and make contact with others…even to the point of becoming close with them and loving them. You two were blessed to have found each other. I know that John and your friends and family will comfort you through this trying moment.

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