She is nearing a century, and now, these last months, in and out of the hospital, weak, not springing back, me seeing her now for that, that weakness, this latest admission.
She’s weak, to be sure, one discharge prelude to another admission. But better this morning, no new issues, as together we meander the consult.
“Is there a church or faith community important to you?” I get around to asking her.
The answer is at once quick, “No,” only to be tempered. “But I have talked with God,” she tells me. “I saw heaven. Saw what a beautiful place it was.”
This, after her stroke, she’s not sure how many years before, after recovery, she remembering that loss of light, that light then, remembering dying.
She had looked down on her husband then, she told me, saw him weeping, did not want him to longer cry, could not bear those tears, resolved then to come back.
Alive again, she prayed, she told me, asked God this, heard that, God telling her that her troubles would no longer be troubles.
And they weren’t.
“God took them all away.”
After all,” she went on to say, “God never sleeps. He has always come to me.”
In that time between dying and again living, she had also seen a friend of 40 years, one recently dead, that friend in that reverie dressed entirely in yellow, her big hat included.
Until then, over those 40 years, she had never seen her friend in yellow, only to have her friend’s children tell her afterwards, “Yes, yellow was always Mom’s favorite color.”
“I never knew,” my patient told me. “Never knew.”
For her, that friend, that color.
For me, my mother, the day before her death, apologizing for dying.
Or me, kissing my father one last time, he dying of pancreatic cancer, and I’m leaving then for the airport.
“I love you,” I said, those words sealing a kiss.
“I love you, too,” in a breath, my father returning my words, my father ever detached from feelings, head under a cap, his eyes never then meeting mine.
“Now, get out of here,” he tells me, not meaning a word.
These years later, that patient, that dead friend, her friend, entirely in yellow.
If love has a color, it must, I now think, be yellow.
More often, though, love hides its colors, lets its meaning linger long in words like those, as those of us who do this, know.
Words like, “I love you, too. Now, get out of here.”