My close friend Nicole drove down from LA to meet Vernon and me this morning. She had been feeling compelled to come pray for him in person for a few weeks, but life kept messing with her availability. It turns out the timing all worked out as mysteriously as it usually does, for there were two women I had never met before, waiting to pray with him too.
One of them, Millie, told me that she had met Vernon once before, when he was just starting the Stamp Foundry business with his brother-from-another-mother, Chris Adams, early last year. Chris had since filled her on Vernon’s situation, and she asked if she could come visit. You surely know by now how open I am to visitors for Vernon, whether I know them or not, but I’d either forgotten or hadn’t realized she was coming today. So she and her friend Diane joined Nicole and I as we took Vernon outside to enjoy the fresh air and some personal space.
They were lovely company. As we all chatted in the shade under the big umbrella, Vernon seemed very calm and alert. He was clearly listening to the conversation, with his eyes frequently opened, asking the odd question, though still getting his words mixed up. I can always tell by his eyes how connected he is, and this morning was shaping up to be a good day in this regard.
And then the women, with Vernon’s permission, began to pray quietly over him. He often doesn’t like to be touched for long, but today, he seemed to enjoy it, falling into a peaceful state, even asking if they wouldn’t mind laying their hands on fresh places, such as his back or the other foot. He interrupted here and there if someone spoke something he didn’t understand. I’m sure with the various visitors he’s had, he’s gotten used to people praying over him. He seemed to enjoy it.
And then, after a silent space, he lifted his head and looked at me. “Vanessa…”
Yes, he is still calling me Vanessa, and Synnove, and Mum. I try to correct him, but my name never sticks for long. Justine wisely tells him, “You can call me whatever you want to call me.” And she advises me to tell him the same.
“Vanessa…” he began. And then as if he was saying a prayer himself, he continued: “You are so kind and warm and loving. You have such a good heart. You are full of so much love. You have so much love for people, and you are so giving and kind. You don’t even realize it. You are so good to me and it means so much.”
If those weren’t his exact words, that was the gist of it. I was crying by the end, of course, deeply moved. It felt like an affirmation from his spirit, even if most of the times I’ve seen him over the past months, he treats me like the bad guy. I know better than to take it personally, but doesn’t feel nice. I don’t know if we will ever be equals again—I’m not betting on it. But his words were powerful in that moment, and I felt ‘seen’ by him again in a way I would prefer to be seen.
When it was time for Millie and Diane to leave, he reached out to hug them goodbye, very grateful for their time and company. I love these mornings when I see shadows of the old Vernon coming through. He was always so gentle and charming and this part of his personality still seems to be part of him.
Nicole had brought lots of old photos to share with Vernon, some of herself and me when we were in our twenties, and then some of trips our families had taken together. As usual, he isn’t so great with specifics, but he does remember being friends with Nicole, Ash, and their son, Julian.
There is one more unrelated thing I want to share before I sign off. Last week, Joan’s roommate Rose passed away. She had been dying for some time as she had stage 4 cancer and was quite elderly. Joan had taken good care of her, advocating for her when she could. When Rose finally passed away, it came as a difficult shock to Joan, especially as she was the one who found her. She knew the time was coming, but still, she was quite shaken up.
Here is Justine with Joan, after giving her consolation flowers. We are learning together how to walk in a world with death and handicap and old age. It’s the same world we’ve always lived in, but our eyes are opening to more of it, that’s all.