Farewell, Beloved Friend

Sundown for Dale

Dale died yesterday morning.

My friend did his final surrender at 10:00 a.m on April 1, 2010.

About 5 years ago, he consented to let me walk with him through colon cancer and, after incredible ravages on his body, he licked it.

Two years ago, leukemia showed up.  He couldn’t beat this round of ravaging.

Back when he was dealing with the colon cancer, we had a schedule to transport Dale over to Victoria (a two hour trip each way) for radiation five days a week for weeks.  I watched this man, who was so in tune with nature, turn himself over to a demanding, debilitating and completely unnatural procedure in the name of being ‘cured’.  The car/ferry trip was enough to sap any energy he would muster;  upon arrival at the cancer clinic, he quietly faced the zapping process that technicians diligently protected themselves from.

He was not able to reclaim his usual level of energy, but he began to get rid of his life’s accumulation of goods and chattels.  He worked on a huge Greyhound bus, turning it into a home.  He planned to sell his house and spend the rest of his life living comfortably in his bus, free to stay or leave any place at will.  He kept working his plan even after his diagnosis of leukemia.

During the time that he was healing from colon cancer, I made every attempt to be a supportive friend without overstepping boundaries.  He made every decision about his care, especially about the quantity of care.  The quality was ever present thanks to our medical system, but Dale was very clear when he’d had enough poking, prodding and prompting.

We had been friends for a number of years.  Although our friendship was deep and intimate, we always respected the fact that neither of us wanted to take the friendship to a romantic level.  When we met, we had both just come out of relationships that required each of us to heal hurt hearts in our own manner and time.  Consequently, we both appreciated the value of solid, reliable and sensible companionship without the complications of romantic snags and sexual reformation.

One day, after Dale’s third return to the hospital due to his incision refusing to heal, I saw that he desperately needed to bathe.  I had never given anyone a sponge bath, but I knew I was the only one available to do it.  I said to Dale, “Do you trust me to give you a sponge bath?”

“Well, I haven’t got anything that would shock you”, he said with a grin.

“I know that there’s a way to do it so you keep your dignity.  Nothing need be exposed.  Between the two of us, we can figure this out.  You game?”

“I’m game for anything to feel clean,” he said.  “Let’s do it.”

As I bathed my friend, I realized that even though I had been married and even though I had spent quality time with a few men in my 50 years, I knew more about Dale’s body than any other.

As I finished the task, he said, “Why have you done all this for me?  What possesses you to do all this?”

I paused.  Good question.  Although I was a trained Hospice Companion, this was about living, not dying.  Only one  answer came to me, “Must be out of love, Dale.  I do love you.”

He let out a great “Ughhhh!”

“Don’t go all weird on me, Dale.  It’s really okay to love friends, you know!”

“What does that mean…love? Is there a hidden agenda here?”

“It means it’s a time for me to GIVE – no conditions, no agenda.  Just ‘being there’ for another human with no motive.  I don’t expect you to believe me, but if I have a motive, I haven’t figured it out yet.”

“Humph!  Sure is hard to accept, but I don’t have much choice these days.”  The bath had worked its magic and he was ready to sleep.

“I’m going to leave so you can rest.  I’ll think about your question and see if I’m hiding anything from myself.  See you tomorrow.”

As I drove home, I considered all the reasons I felt love for Dale:

Intelligent                          Sensible                                 Wise

Teaches me about farm stuff & nature

Can fix anything              Shows me another side to problems

Reads voraciously and talks about the books

Loves animals                 Honest                                    Adventurous

Quiet, but knock-em-dead sense of humour

Kind                                    Generous                               Communicative

Curious                             Inventive                         Creative

Did I every rhyme these off to Dale?  Perhaps I did in bits and pieces, but when he would ask, I’d give him the short answer as we ventured into some other care-giving challenge:  “I just love you, Dale.”  I don’t think he ever accepted my answer.

It was and IS the truth.  I love that cantankerous, contrary, and defiant farmer from Manitoba who could confound me with his ability to put his hand to anything and make it beautiful.

I loved the fact that he grew marvelous produce that he sold at our local market.  I adored helping him in his stall.  When he sold flowers along with his tomatoes, I’d help him pick flowers the night before and put together a few bouquets that were works of art – the right mix, the perfect colours.   Dale would throw together bouquets that proved his color blindness and inattention to textures.   He simply ignored my protests.  The next day when I’d show up at the market to see if I could relieve him, he’d point out that the only bouquets still for sale were the ones I had prepared.  It took me weeks to finally see that he sold his floral concoctions to men  – who obviously shared his color blindness!

Dale’s family phoned me today to make sure I was aware of Dale’s death.  At the time of the call, I was still numb.  I could hardly bear to talk with his brother.  My heart was on hold.

It broke open tonight.

Yes, Dale, I love you.  And I will be calling on you so get yourself settled on the other side.  Figure things out so you can explain it to me.

And Dale…now, maybe you will believe that it was simply love that gave me the impetus to walk with you in your journey of healing.  I would not have missed it for the world.  But I sure miss you already.

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15 thoughts on “Farewell, Beloved Friend

  1. Amy I know how much Dale meant to you. I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing. What a beautiful friendship! Before the cancer Dale and I traveled and spent time together doing service work. When I think of Dale today I remember humility and how often he quietly did stuff that no one else cared to do. Who can forget the grin and the smiling eyes, you just knew he was in his element. I feel an emptiness inside for not being able to maintain contact like we had years before, it is all too sudden. I will always have a place in my heart for Dale. Love to you on the other side, Karen

  2. Hello Amy,
    I just want to thank you for sharing the wonderful painting you did of your friend Dale with words. I can see that you captured both his and your spirits perfectly and it made my heart blossom to the point of tears. And I thank you for it.
    Love, John

  3. Thank you Amy, your friendship meant so very much to Dale and me, his brother. I have printed a copy for Dana, Erin, and our Mom. We will treasure you and your eulogy forever. What a beutiful expression of friendship and love. I loved Dale so much, and I love you too.
    David

  4. Thank you for sharing with us Amy. You have such a great heart and compassion overflows from you. I feel very blessed to have met and become one of your friends.

    XO Susan

  5. Amy, some of the most intimate experiences I have had occurred while I was caring for a very ill patient. The physical touch seems to give permission for all vulnerabilities to be exposed. The trusting eye contact can unleash memories, fears and even joys that have often been hidden away for years. Thanks for sharing Dale’s story.

    Love,

    Joan

  6. Amy,you don’t know me but I was friends with Dale sense about the 60s.That is an honour to say.I got to visit Dale with Gail and Peter a few weeks before he past.We talked about riding bikes together this summer,something we use to injoy alot together.I too had lived in a bus and we shared alot of common desires.I missed out on about 20 years with him because I was up in northern Alberta.But I know what a wonderfull,caring and interesting person he was and I will hold him in my heart for ever.I will think of him every time I ride my bike.Take care…….Jerry

    • Thank you for your comments, Jerry! It means a great deal to have a friend of Dale’s VERBALLY slip onto the seat, hit the kick stand, and start the memory’s engine! It’s comparable to having a good ride with Dale on a great road in perfect weather conditions – with the bike performing like never before! 🙂 Robin, Dale’s sister, told me that her last moment with Dale was his riding off on his motorcycle. She has a picture of it. Maybe we can get her to share it with us! Many thanks, Amy

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