I didn’t get to be with him for much of his adult years because I was eight years older than he was and was away from home. But I knew he was a responsible, hard worker, and he was so good to Mama and Daddy. After Daddy retired, he and Mama came from California for what they thought was an extended visit, but turned out to be for good. Wayne took good care of them. When they needed extra finances, he was able and willing to give it to them. He was stoic and didn’t talk much, but when the family came to visit from across the country, his sense of humor had everyone in stitches.
He loved M&M’s. Because of that, people would give him M&M memorabilia. Each piece worked; you put the M&M’s in the container, pushed the arm and M&M’s would come out (in this case, out of the horn). He had enough M&M guys that each of us three sisters and all the nieces and nephews each got one. I chose the horn player. As I was gazing at it this morning, sitting with other memory items on my memory shelf, memories flooded back and became the source of this post.
I was Wayne’s caretaker. I moved in with him and my mom before he was diagnosed with lung cancer so I could be closer to help my mom who had just turned 90. Then, shortly after, Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was so glad I could be there for him so he could be at home; my mom couldn’t be his caretaker. I was so grateful that my sister and her husband took Wayne to his doctor appointments, both his cancer doctor and to the wound clinic (that was every week) for a wound on his ankle. At that time he needed a wheelchair so it would have been hard for me alone.
Wayne had been baptized as a baby, but as he realized his days on earth were nearing an end, he expressed a desire to be baptized as an adult. Since it was impossible for him to do it at the church, our pastor did it at the house. We covered his neck with a towel and Pastor Raeford poured a basin of water over his head into another basin.
In June, Wayne entered Hospice and was home until the last day. He was so restless that last day that even medication didn’t help him settle; we put him in the hospital so they could give him stronger medication to help him sleep. They took him in an ambulance in the evening and my mom and I went and filled out the paperwork and saw him sleeping peacefully. We went back to visit the next day. He was sleeping–that last sleep–so we didn’t stay long. We were going to go back the next day, but they called about 9:30 that night and said they didn’t think he would live through the night. My mother, my sister, her husband, her daughter, and I went down and waited with him. He didn’t know we were there. They told us the time between breaths would grow longer until they stopped. We waited and listened. My mom told him it was okay for him to go. It was hard for her; this was her only son. But she didn’t want to see him suffer anymore. And then as we rested in his dark room, waiting for his journey to end, it did at a little after 1am.
It was special to be with him at that time, to say goodbye in that way.
Whenever I look at that M&M horn blower, I will think of Wayne. As with all those you love, when they leave your life, they are still there in your mind and heart.
POEM IN HONOR OF WAYNE
GATHERED TO SAY GOODBYE
We gathered to say goodbye to you.
We grieved your going,
thrust upon us, changing our lives.
You were too young,
too much life before you,
too soon to let you go,
too soon to say goodbye.
We gathered to say goodbye to you,
but laughter mingled with our tears
at funny stories of remembrance—
family gatherings on the front porch,
computer games played with cousins and siblings,
pancake breakfasts with the family,
Mom & Dad’s 50th wedding celebration
We gathered to say goodbye to you,
to celebrate your new life
with the One who freed you
from your prison of pain.
One day our goodbye will be,
“Hello, good to see you again,”
as you welcome us to your new home.