As I sat weeping next to Geoff’s just deceased body what I missed most was the playful glint behind those beautiful blue Irish eyes. They truly were the window to his kind and gentle soul.
He had been a strapping young lad from Michigan camping in the Grand Tetons when Anne and her family arrived for their vacation. Geoff and Anne hit it off straight away and in fact, Geoff followed Anne’s family back to California. He simply showed up on her doorstep and never left. That was 67 years ago and part of the story Alzheimer’s had erased from Geoff’s memory bank.
Also gone was a lifetime of working for the forestry service, raising two loving daughters, untold hours fishing, and traveling the country with Anne in their little camper. Bed-bound for the last several years of his life, as his body ever-so-slowly diminished so did a lifetime of memories and an even awareness of who he was.
What did not diminish, however, was that playful kindness in those deep blue eyes. Always present to the moment, Geoff loved to laugh and tease. After months of visits and simple conversations Geoff could vaguely remember my face but not who I was or why I was there.
Geoff Taught Me…
Most of the time I simply told Geoff his own life story. It all started naturally enough. On one of my first visits, those blue eyes looked like a deer’s caught by headlights as Geoff told me he couldn’t remember who he was or why he was still here. So I just started to remind him. As I told him his own life story, those blue eyes began to water and relax. When I told him he was a good man and had lived a good life he smiled. That mischievous Irish grin captured my heart.
Over the months Geoff taught me so much about living in the present moment. That’s all we really have anyway. With him, the present was all there was. He taught me how lost we can get when we forget who we are, when we forget our story – and how important it is to have good friends and loved ones to remind us. He also taught me about emotional investing. Because of the love he had deposited into others throughout his ninety plus years of living, he earned great dividends and was able to benefit from those investments when it was needed. His memory bank may have been depleted, but his emotional and relational accounts continued to thrive.
A Golden Luminous Ball…
The night before he died, Anne and their daughter Mary were up caring for him and got no sleep. The next afternoon, Anne had just lain down to get some rest in the next room. She told me she really didn’t sleep – she called it being in a “twilight zone” – when she saw a golden luminous ball suddenly appear on the door of the bedroom. She was just thinking, “Is that Geoff’s spirit?” when Mary came in to tell her that Geoff had just passed away.
Was that luminous golden ball that manifested on Anne’s bedroom door Geoff’s spirit as she believes? Was it the divine spark that animated the playful glint behind his beautiful blue Irish eyes? I don’t know. But what I do know is that my own life has been incredibly enriched by simply spending hours with a good man, basking in the glow of his love with and for Anne, and having the distinct privilege of re-telling this kind man with the beautiful blue eyes the story he actually lived.