At the Veil


There is a very powerful moment in the Harry Potter books where he and his friends are chased into a room where an ancient archway stood. From it hung tattered black curtains that seemed to move on their own.  Harry and his friend Luna both heard voices coming through the veil that hung.  A battle ensues resulting in Harry’s godfather falling through the veil – and in that moment, he left life behind – he was truly gone.

Reading the Facebook posts, the tweets, and the other blog posts, I know that Amanda Palmer is sitting bedside as her dear friend of 30 years stands at the veil about to pass through it to the other side.  Amanda Palmer who “So pregnant,  a beam of life and light in the darkness of the dying.” – using Neil Gaiman’s words to describe it.  As they sit before the veil waiting for him to pass, life anew sit in the room in stark contrast.

And while I read the posts and updates she is so graciously sharing with those in her fandom, I cannot help but transport back to a moment where I had a similar contrast – a similar experience.

G’s grandfather had  Parkinson’s the entire time I knew him.  Early on, it was marked with occasional stuttering and a stumble or two.  Later, he could not feed himself as he body was too twisted and contorted for him to control despite his best efforts.  When he heard I was pregnant – that he was going to be a great-grandfather, he pushed to hold on.  What little he could communicate at that point, he made one thing clear – he wanted to meet the baby.

We flew down there when DJ was a few months old.  It had been a while since I had been there, so I didn’t know what state he would be in.  He was bed bound at this point.  He was not the man I knew – he had truly shrunk.  I wish I knew where I could put my hands on it, that photo of DJ laying next to him, in the crook of his arm.  She looked up at his face, cooing and ‘talking’ to him with a giant smile on her face like she knew she was meeting a very special person.  And he, for the first time in a long time, smiled.  He was happy.  Capturing that moment – where life and death were meeting, if you will – was just powerful – it was moving. There was not a dry eye in the room – happy, blessed and knowing full well that this was a moment forever etched in your heads.

The next morning, we had taken DJ to see G’s great uncle and his wife who lived 2 blocks away.  We had just entered the house when the phone rang.  G’s great uncle is a retired doctor – the call was asking him to come to the house now.  Things were not looking good.  He left with G and his dad.  We followed a few minutes later – the ambulance was leaving with him.  They got to the hospital – and while holding G’s hand, he went through the veil.

He had all he needed.  It was time to go.

So he went.

Maybe it was because I was holding my 3 month old that made me cry a bit more – having just brought life into the world only to see, so soon, life leave.  I was happy that grandfather was free of his pain – free of that body that had him trapped.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was seeing and feeling life and death so close together – happy and sad – young and old – birtha nd death – celebration and grief — just something I was not prepared for with those moments being so close together.

Though prepared for it or not, you go through it all.  You laugh where you can. You cry when you need to.  You try to turn it all into a celebration of life – his and her’s – just at different stages.  And you know, that with that important person gone, it is your job to make sure he lives on with the child – though stories and photographs and visits to the Naval Academy.

Today, Amanda posted the post I think we knew was coming.  Her friend passed. She announced at the same time that her baby is a boy – he will be named after her friend in a glimpse of the moment – on both sides of the veil – ending and beginning.  When I read her words, I almost cried for her – cried for that similar moment I had many many years before that flooded into my memory.

I guess that is the thing that has amazed me while reading about her journey – how many of us have been at that moment ourselves.  How many people crowded around her even through social media to support her – to share love and energy with her.  Just proves that no matter how far we are from people, it is our experiences that bring us together – crosses lines and boundaries and distance.

And brings back more memories than we care to feel sometimes…..but such is life….

….and death.

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