Things I Learned from R. B. (September 6th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4517)

Episode 31

July 19th.

R. B.’s birthday.

It arrived with a horrific sense of timing. In the midst of his daily demise, how would it be possible to foster a celebration of his birth? Yet I was fully aware that R. B. knew it was his birthday. He didn’t need leave this planet feeling he was absent sentiment.

So I planned it.

I picked up pulled pork barbecue, which was his favorite, a chocolate cake with butter cream icing (which was my favorite) and got permission from the hospice to use the dining room for a private party of about twenty-five people. The facility also graciously offered kitchen facilities for our use.

I took the precaution of talking to each person attending about the nature of the situation. In our family, it is customary to give a verbal tribute to the person being honored at birthday celebrations, telling them how valuable and precious they had been during the year.

Trying to avoid awkwardness and also R. B.’s fatigue, I suggested that the guests share one sentence stating their favorite part of R. B.

Considering how bizarre the circumstances were, the party ended up being rather intimate, especially when one of the young children told R. B. that he was very sad that his friend was dying.

This was too much for R. B.

His eyes burst forth with tears, which had been held in reserve for some unpronounced occasion.

He wept.

He sobbed.

And through his tears he proclaimed, “I don’t want to die.”

The room was hushed—emotions thick with tenderness and pain. Nobody ate much of the barbecue. The cake was sampled. It seemed that the circle of souls who came to salute R. B. moved in closer and closer as the afternoon pressed on.

I guess if a man has to die and is granted a send-off, this could have been one of the better ones ever to be conceived.

After about an hour-and-a-half, one of the nurses arrived to take R. B. back to his room.

It was time for final thoughts. Something needed to be said.

I was trying to come up with a spirited closing for the event when Lily, my granddaughter, piped up with some wonderful four-year-old wisdom. “See you tomorrow,” she said with the cheeriest voice I’ve ever heard.

Everyone applauded, laughed and clapped some more as R. B. made his exit from the room.

As he was leaving, I thought to myself that I was probably the world’s greatest hypocrite.

For I certainly did not honor this fellow. He had been cruel to me—perhaps treacherous. What did I think I was achieving by hosting a party for my enemy?

As I was standing there, staring off in the distance, one of the guests came up and hugged my back. She leaned up and whispered in my ear, “Congratulations. You gave him what he needed.”

Exactly. She was right.

It wasn’t about me.

Of course.

It wasn’t about me.

 

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