by Kahlil Gibran

Come close to me, oh companion of my full life;
Come close to me and let not Winter’s touch
Enter between us. Sit by me before the hearth,
For fire is the only fruit of Winter.

Speak to me of the glory of your heart, for
That is greater than the shrieking elements
Beyond our door.
Bind the door and seal the transoms, for the
Angry countenance of the heaven depresses my
Spirit, and the face of our snow-laden fields
Makes my soul cry.

Feed the lamp with oil and let it not dim, and
Place it by you, so I can read with tears what
Your life with me has written upon your face.

Bring Autumn’s wine. Let us drink and sing the
Song of remembrance to Spring’s carefree sowing,
And Summer’s watchful tending, and Autumn’s
Reward in harvest.

Come close to me, oh beloved of my soul; the
Fire is cooling and fleeing under the ashes.
Embrace me, for I fear loneliness; the lamp is
Dim, and the wine which we pressed is closing
Our eyes. Let us look upon each other before
They are shut.
Find me with your arms and embrace me; let
Slumber then embrace our souls as one.
Kiss me, my beloved, for Winter has stolen
All but our moving lips.

You are close by me, My Forever.
How deep and wide will be the ocean of Slumber,
And how recent was the dawn!

I am a hospice volunteer which means that once a week I visit with a patient who is nearing the end of his (or her) life. While I visit, the primary caregiver has a chance to rest or run errands. Most of the time, the patients are elderly and single; their spouses having passed away long before them and they are in the care of their sons or daughters.

More recently I have been assigned women whose husbands are still living and who are the primary caregivers. I have actually spent more time visiting with these men than I have their wives. The love and attentiveness they have towards their wives reminds me of the Gibran poem. How tenderly they care for their wives and try to evade the inevitable. I sit and visit with these men because they do not wish to leave their wives, but they welcome some company and a chance to chat. They talk of their lives and their children, the things they did together as a couple, the things their wives did that made them proud, their lives growing up and how they met. How young they were when they started out together!

Rob hopes that, of the two of us, I will go first. He wants to be able to care for me until the end of my life. I am not opposed to that. Not because I have no desire to care for him, but because I know it would be hard for him to die knowing I would be left to care for myself. I do not know if there are things that the departed can do to help us while we go on without them, but I hope there is, because I know these dying women that I visit will wish to comfort their companions who so lovingly cared for them through their sickness.

photo courtesy of