Citizen:a person who legally belongs to a country and has the rights and protection of that country
(Vernon under this photo in Joshua Tree, a place he resonated with. He was always fascinated by the deserts of America, so mythic and unusual to his European experience.)
This morning I started filling out new forms for the removal of his body. I discussed options with our Chaplain. Of course he was okay with the options I decided on immediately after coming into the hospice season. It seemed much more efficient to have all my major decisions over and done with right away, but after all this time of waiting with Vernon, I had a change of mind. So for that alone, I’m thankful this is taking longer than expected. Maybe that’s even why.
But I can’t bring myself to fill out the forms any more than the very basics on the first page. Not right now. Not this morning. Not today. Fortunately, I don’t have to. The basic things I will need handled have already been arranged.
I’ve filled out SO many forms for Vernon since his accident. But the great irony lies in the forms I filled out for him for naturalization. They literally took me all summer to finish. When he had gone to the hospital last week, I had printed the last letter out and made all the necessary corrections. There must have been 50 pages. In fact, the last thing I had to do to finish up the packet was take a 2×2″ passport-style photo of him with a white background. Of all the the things I’d collected, I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten that detail till so late. So I used the pillows of his hospital room as a backdrop, even though I knew already it was pointless. Those papers would never get sent. He opened his eyes and tried to look straight at my camera. He was always on board with this citizenship idea, to the very end: in his mind, I believe it solidified him with the land his family was in. That’s where he wanted to be. It didn’t seem to matter if he had a temporary catheter sticking out of his neck and wires running across his chest. *
But Vernon has never really belonged to any land. He grew up in England but was happy to leave and live in Norway as soon as the chance came up as a young art student. He lived there for many years, learning the language and finding a wife. He lived in Dusseldorf, Germany for a time. He lived in England again. He moved to America. He was a citizen of the world. And soon he will be a citizen of heaven. I don’t even have to fill out anymore paperwork for him till after he goes. It will be an afterthought.
As my friend Sandy used to say when her husband died: “I haven’t lost him like everyone says…I know exactly where he is.”
A few Here is our favorite Simon and Garfunkel song. We both always loved it.