Art by the wide-eyed and tearful Brian Jocks.
While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
I would like to propose a game. It has only three rules, which I’ll explain as we go. It will differ slightly depending on our relationship to one another (and we all have a relationship, don’t we? Even strangers are strange in relation to one another), but you should plan on three days, plus the rest of your life.
The game is called Hospice.
First, I will lie down and put some of those waxy gummy earplugs in my ears. That’s rule number one—if you’re lying down, you have to wear ear plugs. No cheating.
Once you’re sure I can’t hear you, you may tell me anything you like. Tell me your hopes and dreams. Tell me your regrets. Confess the ways you’ve failed our relationship, whatever those may be. Tell me how you’re angry that I failed too. Tell me what you’ve always loved about me, and what you’ve always hated, and how you wish things had been different. Tell me my nose is crooked and my ears are big and when I laugh I sound like a dying walrus. For my part, I will imagine that you are apologizing for eating the last piece of my birthday cake all those years ago, and for looking better in periwinkle. (You always have, you know.)
You may stroke my hand, my hair, my cheek. You may cry or laugh. If you get tired of sitting there, you may check your phone or do some work. Invite some mutual friends if you like, or just some that give you joy, and tell them all about me. Look at old pictures. Take new ones.
Eat things you reserve for times of celebration or stress.
Rule number two is, if my brow wrinkles I get more medication. There is wine on the counter and Bailey’s in the fridge. If you plan on staying overnight I would appreciate you mixing it with a smoothie or something.
On day two we will switch places, and switch roles. I will tell you what I really think, what I’ve always thought, the blessed and the vile. I will play songs I think are your favorite, and I will likely misremember. You won’t know, though, because your earplugs will be in, so it’s OK. I will probably cry loudly, and laugh even louder, and I will monitor intently and faithfully for brow wrinkles. (If you dislike wine or Bailey’s, or if my brow wrinkled a lot, you may want to bring something else on day one.)
On day three, we will meet on the street. And here—rule three—we must look upon one another as if seeing a ghost. Then we will take turns saying “Peace be with you,” or, since it has a more dramatic ring, “Fear not” or “Be not afraid.” (I’m pretty sure we’re disqualified if we say “Shazam.”) If you insist we can put our hands in each other’s sides, but I’m ticklish and squealing may spoil the mood. We will sit on a bench and ignore the sand grinding under our sandal straps and the stares of passersby, and we will pick through and weigh the things we said on the first two days and relay those that are worth repeating.
I want to hear you sing again.
You are beautiful.
Your laugh brings me joy.
Allow me to give you my periwinkle sweater.
Please tell me again the story of how your brother pulled you from the river.
I am sorry I ate the last piece of your birthday cake.
You’re right, Journey really did have some catchy tunes.
I love you, I love you, I love you.
The rest we will release to the pyre.
And then, on that third day, we will rise arm in arm to new life.
It’s a cooperative game.
Marybeth Chuey Bishop lives in Annapolis with her husband and children, two dogs, and some scruffy plants. She’s pretty sure the hamster is gone for good. She likes to walk, wear socks with kraken or Poe on them, and write with her blogging partner-in-crime Kristen at Crone Café. You can find them on Facebook or at cronecafe.wordpress.com.