How many lonely nights will I sit on this porch watching the river as the moonlight casts its eerie shadows? I wonder how far the river flows. Could I possibly toss my cares into the dark waters and have them swiftly carried downstream? No, that would be too easy, and I know this journey is to be the most difficult of my life.

2 a.m. – 3 a.m. – 4 a.m.

I am still here – alone and afraid. Fear grips my heart and squeezes hard and long. I rub my chest to ease the pain.

Because I have deserted the bedroom for the serenity of the porch, the dying man lies alone, a coma for his companion, a candle for his comfort, music for his fading spirit.

I count the stars and notice one – just one – extra big, extra bright. It fascinates me. Is it winking at me? Could it be you, Daddy, I ask out loud with only the moon to hear me. Although he is gone from this world, calling out to him has become a routine, a comfort, for me. He has become my friend in this journey toward death. Tears stream down my face. “Can you help us?” I ask with the voice of a child.

My gaze moves slowly across the shadows of the dimly lit porch. I see the wilting flowers, once bright with life, once delicate in their texture; unfinished books with words of inspiration on their pages, just waiting to be opened once again; the wooden swing, silent and empty, its once colorful cushions now faded and cold.

I cannot throw away the flowers; that would be admitting that death lives here. I cannot finish reading the books; then I would have come to the end. I cannot replace the cushions; new cushions will never know the essence of our beings.

The dying man in bed is the flower, once bright with life, now wilting, and I cannot give him up. Our life together lives in the unfinished books, and I am afraid to read the last chapter. And the cushions on the swing – husband and wife – the fabric is dull, but the life is still precious.

Gazing back to the river, I feel a presence nearby, a soft touch on my shoulder. Is it you, God? Are you here to take the books and the flowers and the old cushions? Is it time for us to give up our attachment to the things of this world?

A soft breeze moves quietly through the trees and I hear the rustling of the leaves. The river glows as if someone has thrown stardust across it from shore to shore. The pages of an open book are blown from right to left as if being read swiftly, until the last page is reached. I fear the meaning.

My hand reaches out for the wilting flowers and I clutch them to my breast. I grab the book and keep it opened to the last page. I tremble as the old swing moves to and fro in the evening breeze.

“Don’t take these from me,” I beg. A Voice speaks in the silence of my heart and a sense of peace and serenity fills my soul. There is a sense of joy in my heart. I am comforted.

“I must go to him,” I say. But I cannot rise from the chair. The Presence moves from the porch to the bedroom. I realize my place is here with the stars and the moon and not with the dying man and his Guest. My place is here on the porch.

Through the window I see the candlelight flicker and die. The music fades, until I can hear it no more.

And the loving Presence – the tender Voice – brings peace and comfort and joy to my loved one. Together they leave me, hand in hand, and I am alone on the porch. A gentle rain begins to fall. I hear it as it lands softly on the spring grass. It dances on the river like little bubbles of happiness.

This is the last of life, the end for which we were born. Farewell, my husband, my friend, I loved you then. I love you now.

My grip on the wilting flowers loosens. I gently close the book which is now finished. The swing is still. My task is done.

And I say out loud as I rest in solitude on the porch …

In my loneliness, I see your face
I feel your spirit, drenched with grace
I hear the flutter of angels’ wings
The sound of trumpets

Till we meet again …

Joyce Marie Sheldon

Joyce Marie Sheldon

Joyce Marie Sheldon has been a Banker, a University Administrator, and a small business owner; however, it is her role as author, inspirational speaker and caregiver advocate which has motivated her to move in a new direction. After the death of her husband in 2001, her first book, From Fear to Faith, A Caregiver’s Journey, received the acclaimed endorsement of Hospice International and that of Christiane Northrup, MD, author and women’s health advocate who stated, “I read ... I wept … and was helped. Bless you!” Since that time, she has authored 4 other books, Seekers and Dreamers, Living Sanctuariously, Mia and Mr. Red Feather and Little Kind Heart, all inspirational guides to living a life of simplicity and peace no matter what the circumstances. She has created Bridges to Understanding, A Caregiver’s Conference which provides inspiration to those who work with the sick, the elderly and the dying. This conference emphasizes the power of communication and compassion, provides guidelines to maintaining peace during times of trial, and tools for successful care giving. Joy travels the country to present keynote speeches and to facilitate workshops for hospice and home care staff as well as family caregivers. Most recently, Joy developed a new conference titled, Growing in Broken Places, which addresses the subject of growing through loss – experiencing growth and embracing change. She has also dedicated time to present workshops for young mothers, and is devoted to the issue of character development in our young children. She has been the guest speaker at club events and medical meetings, has had numerous radio interviews and has presented her workshops, Making Good Decisions, to the young people of the Town of Davidson, NC. and at several out-of-state locations. Joyce, known affectionately as “Joy” to her friends, is the mother of 7 children. Having been a caregiver herself, she is knowledgeable and compassionate of their needs. Her sensitivity and insight, as well as her gentle communication style, have made her a unique addition to panels and conferences. Joy has been a weekly contributor to and many other online publications. Her writings have been published in dozens of individual and state publications as guides to professional and personal development.

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