A few days ago, a friend reminded me of Raymond Carver’s poem Late Fragment. I find it both joyful and poignant (the more so because he wrote it when he was dying from cancer at the age of 50). It expresses beautifully what I wanted for Chris more than anything else, for her to know that she was both lovable and loved.
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
Unless you knew her very well, you would not have been able to guess that – despite her extraordinary gift for friendship – Chris found it hard to believe that she herself was worthy of love. Often I found loving her both the easiest and most natural thing in the world; but when the shadow of self-doubt ruled her heart, it was neither.
For me, our last weeks together were wonderful when she let me in and excruciating when (because of my fear and clumsiness or for reasons I didn’t understand) she pushed me away. As the end approached, my greatest fear was that she would die without knowing – really knowing – that I loved her. But at the eleventh hour, she let down her guard.
As she drifted toward unconsciousness, I held her hand and said: “I love you sweetheart. You do know that I love you, don’t you?”
She squeezed my hand and replied. “Thank you.”
They were her last words to me and I knew that she would die knowing that she too was beloved on the earth, and beloved by me.
Perhaps this is the greatest gift of all: not just to love but to take the greater risk of allowing oneself to be loved. As in so many other things, Chris taught me what really matters in the end.
[Picture credit: Paul MacDonald]