My friend Mary Ann may be dying. It’s hard to tell because she is still so filled with joy (see Just Marvelous).
When my grandmother was dying, I found it difficult to be in her physical presence because the changes in her body so clearly spoke of death. On the way to visit Mary Ann, I worried that I’d have the same reaction.
Mary Ann wears a wig, which I had never before seen her without. Her natural hair is short, sparse, and gray. She sat amid multiple afghans in a partially-raised recliner, and her legs had some bruises. I prepared to grit my teeth and be uncomfortable, but then she saw us and lit up.
This astonishing burst of Mary Ann-ness came pouring out of her. She was delighted to see my mom and me even though she may not have known who we were. Even in ill health and loopy on pain meds, she still manifested an incredible optimism and enthusiasm for life.
She almost immediately said, “God is good.” This is not always my favorite phrase, but when uttered not as a saccharin-sweet coating but with all sincerity by a ninety-year-old with a broken pelvis, it’s hard to argue with.
Mary Ann wasn’t slipping away as I’d feared; she was distilled down to the radiant heart of her being. It made me wonder what my essence is, what I would emit in a similar situation.
Shortly after finding out Mary Ann had taken a turn for the worse, while standing in front of a magnolia tree with only two pink blossoms left, I felt this surge of joy, and I thought, if I’m going to send Mary Ann anything, it should be this feeling. She sent it right back.