You may have mistaken him for Mr. Magoo. You know… small, white-skinned, white-haired. Bent forward the tiniest bit. As if gravity is pulling him along.
Don’t be fooled. That’s not Mr. Magoo. Nothing like him. It’s Leo McIlroy. Father of my very good friend, Anne. Grandfather of Seth, widower of Ginger. And definitely not remotely related to bumbling Mr. Magoo. Leo is old now, but strong. He still has his hair, and I’ve never seen him bumble.
As strong as he is, I think he is going to die soon. Very soon. Maybe even today.
He’s on his back in bed and has been for some weeks now. From vital and active, to hospital, to recovery home, to his own bed in his own home. Family and a few friends surround him. To accompany him tenderly toward his next adventure.
Since I’ve known him, Leo’s been lively and upbeat, offering kind and loving words to all. He smiles easily and hugs even more easily. Soft, sweet, enveloping hugs. He is sincere to his depths. And jolly to those same depths.
Leo is not a thin man. But he’s also not a fat man. I met him when he was already “old,” when tummies start to let go of what’s not important. Like being svelte. Leo is not svelte in body, but his mind and their offspring thoughts certainly are.
Dictionary.com defines svelte as, “slender and elegant,” which is exactly what I mean. No extra fat or fluff in his conversation. No added sugar or salt. His words just don’t need it. They are sweet and salty enough on their own, with just the right amount of seasoning.
“I don’t want this to get morose,” he told me when I brought up his impending death, his upcoming absence, and how much I would miss him. I have always felt honored he treated me with such respect and love.
Leo has been a good man. That is clear to me by his attitude about the journey he is about to embark on. He is relaxed and accepting. His acceptance of what’s next is palpable.
I wanted to be near him before he left. For myself, mainly. For him, too. And a little bit for my dear friend Anne who may be aboard her own rollercoaster ride as her father gives in and he lets go. But mainly I wanted to be with Leo at this time because, like holding a newborn whose joy and freshness rub off an anyone wanting a taste, I want his loving acceptance to rub off on me.
He is ready to say good-bye now. The shaky, delicate touch of his papery fingers doesn’t tell the whole story anymore. His spirit is big and wide and open. Bold and robust and excited about what’s coming next. I can feel it in the hugs he is still able and so willing to give. And in his warm and easy acceptance of my caresses.
Despite his now-labored, rattling breaths, Leo is ready for the conductor’s final whistle as the train starts to grind away from the station. All visitors, and lovers, and onlookers stand watching. Left behind on the platform where he had been just moments ago. We wave “So long, Dear One!” Some of us weep. Some stay quiet and solemn. And still others grin widely. The rules are the rules. No visitors on this train, Friends. This is a solo journey.
And then, he is gone.