There is a message saved in my voice-mail. I know every word, every sigh, every pause. I had just, moments before, sent a text message to Nick. It was the morning of January 26, and my mother had just taken her last breath. I text-ed something benign like, “She passed. I’m fine. Stay at work.” I felt guilty enough that week. Nick had taken considerable time off of work to be by my side at my family home, during the stress and heartache of watching a loved one suffer.
He called me, and I did not take the call, could not take the call. I was too busy trying to hold my shit together, and I knew a concerned voice would be my undoing. He left a message. Called again, left another message. I waited an hour to listen to them. “Laura. This is Nick. I really need to talk to you. I don’t need to be at work today. I need to be with you today.” It had been his mantra through the entire ordeal. Fairly impressive for a man I had known less than a month, no?
I text-ed him that previous Friday too. Camped out at the hospital as we were that week, he requested nearly constant updates. One evening, he drove me to the hospital after work so I could space out about everything during rush hour traffic. Another, he picked me up from the hospital parking ramp on his way home from work to give me a reprieve from the weightiness of the situation. But that Friday, that Friday was the beginning of the end, and I knew it with absolute certainty.
Some of my family members would slap their foreheads and say, and sarcastically I’ll add, “Duh!” But there have been so many bleak moments during Mom’s illness, so many bleak moments that I knew in a secret place that she would overcome. We just had that link between us. But, just as she foretold, I knew just when things travelled past the point of no return. I messaged Nick, too grief-stricken to speak, “They’re sending her home tomorrow…home to die. I am so cold.”
Again, less than a minute had passed before he was calling, and I was willing voice-mail to kick in quicker. “Let me be there,” was his theme—or, as a throwback to the Friends reference in the title, perhaps a little “I’ll be there for you” instead.
And, he was. He first came to my family home that Sunday. He met all of my extended family after knowing me 22 days. All of my extended family, and under those conditions…I will never forget it…and he did it for me, saying he couldn’t imagine me there, without having support, somebody there only for me. He also stayed at my side through the visitation, and through the funeral…during which I cried nearly incessantly—nice date material. He’s of a quality that has become rare, invaluable, and he will always have a very special place in my heart and a lofty position in my admiration of his character.
He’s opened up his home to me, a welcoming refuge from the dwelling places so full of my mother. They are getting easier to bear, but the emptiness whirs despairingly still, there among her things, and my memories. Nick keeps vitality vibrant and shimmery in its splendor, and he keeps the shadows at bay. He has been a true blessing, a wonderful friend, and something that seems too early to feel for knowing each other fewer than two months. In those two months, however, we’ve been through a situation that some do not face in 10 years of marriage.
So today, Valentine’s Day, I am going to breathe life and tenderness through my sad moments, and cherish this magnanimous individual who held my hand through my darkest moment, and who just might be holding my heart as well. I hope to touch his life as profoundly one day.