There’s nothing quite like the road that leads to here:
Over the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of walking beside a man – and his family – as they traveled that road together. Once it became clear that there was no turning back, once they knew for certain where they were headed – that the COPD had reached its final stage – the entire family gathered round and buckled up.
They had no idea how long this road might be, or how bumpy things might get, but they knew one thing for sure: No one would be left behind.
They would make this journey together.
And so they cried. They laughed. They sipped coffee. They told stories. They ate dinners. They cleaned up. They said goodbyes. They made amends. They teased each other. They hugged each other. They watched movies. They held hands. They sang songs. They laughed some more. They worried. They tried not to worry. They waited. They prayed.
They talked about where this road was leading, as plainly as if this road was leading to the world’s largest ball of twine or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or some other strange place that we’ve all heard of but never seen.
They wondered what it would be like. They hoped the journey would be peaceful, at least at the end. Especially at the end.
And, mercifully, it was.
Even the very last leg of this road, the one that the rest of us were invited to join – with its police escort and winding procession of cars – was blanketed in a peaceful spring snow coming down so heavy and thick that we could barely see the blinking hazard lights of the car ahead. All the world was veiled, and quiet. Surreal. Serene.
The rows of white tombstones disappeared into the weather.
I’ve had many goodbyes over the past few years. Some harder than others. This one was not easy, for sure. It’s not easy to watch this family walk out such a great loss. It’s not easy to lose a friend who pursued me, and cared about me. Phil left behind so much love, which makes this both more painful and less painful at the same time. But it’s soothing to know that he’s getting what he’s wanted for so long – slow, deep lungfuls of air.
At least we can know that.
We were only at the gravesite long enough for the three rifle volleys, and the folding of the flag, and one last prayer, but by the time we got back into our cars to drive away the snow had already stopped and, within minutes, the sun was peeking through.
The journey is over.
A brave and beautiful soul is finally home.
And the rest of us are left with the memories of an amazing man, and a slightly better sense of how to walk out our own road, wherever it may lead.