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Two women who adore each other

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Two weeks after the second session with clients Allison and June, I received a telephone call.

June’s treatments, according to Allison, had rendered her exhausted. She was unfit to travel. Pain combined with nausea was overpowering June. Allison’s attempt to squelch her grief failed her. She stayed on the phone, I listened while Allison sobbed. Minutes later, she became silent.

“Marshall, June and I have a request. We want to see you and cannot possibly travel to your office. June is too weak. She needs to be close to home. We wondered if you might see us together at our home. If you agree, we ask that you come soon.”

I agreed and we made a time and date. I did suggest more than an hour if June could endure. She could take breaks.

They could feed me.

June laughed.

Our respective schedules pointed to a weekend day to meet undisturbed by schedule conflicts. My drive was slowed by a freak rainstorm. Symbolism ran two courses. Either the rain might disclose a flood of tears from grief or simply put a cleansing.

I thought about Gail. I was tempted to call her for her direction. For now, I made allowances for prayer and meditation to serve me with the highest and best. I arrived 15 minutes late and was met at the door by Allison. I removed my shoes. Allison led me to a warm and brilliant sunroom. June was lying down on a couch and propped up by colorful pillows. Plants adorned the room. A Siamese cat took up space on June’s lap. The unmistakable odor of sage greeted me. Used as a cleansing for spiritual healing, the room felt peaceful.

Allison brought tea and some Irish tea biscuits I enjoy. Just as she sat down near June, I felt wetness on my hand. A sweet black lab with loving eyes wagged its tail and sat next to me. No words were exchanged. I was ready, here and now.

Thank you for inviting me to your home, June and Allison. June, when we last met you somehow braved your fatigue to offer your story. I was heartened by what I assessed as a life filled with joy. You both carved out a life together with simplicity and yet elegance in a not so favorable world. And now, you invite me into your precious space. What else do you want me to know? What do you wish to share?

June received assistance from Allison to prop her up in the couch. She wore comfortable clothes that didn’t hide her thin frame.

“Marshall, Allison and I are glad you came to see us. Sorry we couldn’t be at your office. Please help yourself to tea and biscuits. You may be wondering what we wanted by seeking counseling with you. You got, we hope, a glimpse into the lives of two women who adore each other. You look around, we live comfortably. Years of hard work paid off. We did travel both nationally and internationally. We maintained our beautiful home. Allison is our domestic handywoman. Our bills were always paid on time. We had no children, a decision we sometimes regret. We love children and enjoy our nieces and nephews. Neighborhood kids came by to play with our pets. I love to bake and the kids can successfully talk us into baking sweets. We are welcomed by neighbors, yet, we live a rather quiet life.”

June momentarily stopped to sip tea.

“Marshall, allow me to be up front. I’m dying. Even with advances in modern medicine, the doctors give me six months.” Allison whimpered. “I am growing accustomed to the prognosis; however, I’m worried about Allison. Though she is a capable woman, I know she hides her grief. There are no assumptions, here. Her strength here as a nursemaid (they laughed together) doesn’t mask her grief. I want to die at home. Hospice has been here to assess for services we will need. You see, Marshall, here’s the twist. I’m the one dying and suffering from awful treatments; yet, I worry sick about Allison. I know she’ll survive. We’ve been a team, partners, and lovers. Without a doubt we’ve lived not existed. We lived our lives with joy beyond your imagination. With all of our years of open dialogue on numerous subjects, we failed in one area. We didn’t talk about death and the aftermath. Oh, yes, we joked who would die first; however, we never discussed the depth of this inevitable end of life stage. You know, I can’t believe that my love for Allison will continue after I pass on. I’ll haunt her (both laughed uproariously) in spirit … just kidding. You know, I can’t believe I’m telling you all this, Marshall. I feel a burst of energy I’ve not felt in weeks. Wow, cool. huh?”

I looked at Allison whose tear-filled face demonstrated a depth of feeling. Allison, what’s your response to June’s amazing statement?

“She’s right We’ve both had to be strong mentally and emotionally throughout our time together. I am grateful that God provided for me this remarkable woman. Yes, I’ve kept my emotions tight. I needed to be here for June. I know she’d be there for me if the roles were reversed. (They clasped hands) She’s right, we never spoke about death. I guess we were too busy enjoying life’s offering. Marshall, I know I need to realize this inevitable experience. Yes, I’ll probably have a rough time. I have friends like Gail.”

June gave a sharp look to Allison.

“OK, OK, Marshall, will you continue to see us here, perhaps me alone to face my loss?”

Allison and June, of course I will, so long as you feed this hungry boy. They burst out laughing. We made arrangements. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a masters degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email editorial@observertoday.com.

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