What to Take to a Dying Friend

June 30, 2013

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Leslie Robinson Sharp, is very ill. She’s at home and in hospice care, family members close by. Though fully present in mind, her body grows weaker each day.

I’ve gone to see Leslie, as have numbers of her many friends. We are all trying to work out how to say good-bye to this wise woman who has loved, influenced, and embraced us all. Leslie is one of those people whose powers in the realms of friendship and family seem to be sourced by something beyond mere humanity.

While thinking of her, loving her, and trying to say good-bye to her these past couple of weeks, I wrote this piece.

What to Take to a Dying Friend

Take your first memory of her: A slender young woman crossing a green field in the company of a large black dog.

Turn her name over in your mind a hundred times before you see her. Say her name as often as you can to everyone you know, whether they’ve met her or not. Polish it, a precious stone you must soon drop into the river.

Take the image of her bailing out her boat only weeks ago after spring rains, then holding you because your cat was dying, even as her own sickness held her fast.

Take the first time she told you she was sick and recalled that once, while meditating, she heard music from another world. Was it possible, she wondered then, that she’d hear it again? Remind her of that music.

Take her own music through your day, the songs she wrote and sang to herself and to others east and west.

Take courage because she’ll ask for that. “Don’t be afraid to be moved,” she’ll say, just when you thought you’d gotten yourself under control.

Take heart for her grown daughters, two tall candles lit by her maternity, and for her husband, who burns with grief.

Nuzzle the two dogs who circle her hospice bed sensing a strange presence, fearing a stranger absence. Every moment counts for them, too.

Let her pour the contents of her enormous heart onto the wound of your loss because, with all humility, she knows what you are losing.

Take friends who have loved her through decades as you have loved her. Joke, cry, make a little mischief, smuggle in a root beer float.

Let each friend choose one gift from the many she brought with her or learned along the way and dispersed far and wide, like Demeter scattering the wheat that turns barren fields to gold.

One by one, say these gifts out loud to her with gratitude. Give them back so she can carry them with her as she steps into the silence and the deep.

Les and us

Listen to “The River” – lyrics, voice and accompaniment by Leslie Robinson Sharp. Copyright Leslie Robinson Sharp.

More of Leslie’s music here.

The copyright for all of Leslie’s music and lyrics belongs to her family. Please do not reproduce without permission. If you want to know how to get permission, feel free to contact me and I’ll direct you. Write to: andrea AT andreacarlisle DOT com.)

31 Responses to “What to Take to a Dying Friend”

  1. Andrea, this was so amazingly true. And beautiful. I have copied it to keep for when I need it, for when friends need it. I wish I knew Leslie. I do, a bit, through you.


  2. kvwordsmith Says:

    a true soul picnic and long song for someone close to your heart


  3. alancahn Says:

    Well dear Andrea from across the mountains and the ocean, your words bring me to Leslie and my love for her….this entry and the last about the trip to the garden with Alice are why you write and I read. Thanks for capturing the moment so well.


  4. Janina Fuller Says:

    You have brought our friend even closer to my heart. Thank you.


  5. noneofyourb3eswax Says:

    What a beautiful tribute.


  6. rivermile14 Says:

    Beautifully said Andrea. I will refer to again in the future too. Holding you all in my heart.


  7. Holly Says:

    Andrea. Exquisite. Your words. Leslie’s gifts, Leslie’s song. Just the absolutely perfect thing to find in my inbox as I prepare to lead today’s Death Cafe.

    Much love to Leslie, her daughters and husband, and each of you – her dear friends – as she crosses this threshold. May you all hear that music.


  8. Marcia Butchart Says:

    You’ve never met me…I only know of your magical writings through Claudia Johnson…but thank you for this.


  9. Beautiful, touching, right with the heart.


  10. A taut and beautiful rendering, Andrea, of Leslie and the richness of your many years of friendship.


  11. Beth Says:

    Take courage because she’ll ask for that. “Don’t be afraid to be moved,” she’ll say, just when you thought you’d gotten yourself under control.

    You ground strong emotion in the simplest exchanges. You always tell the truth. You keep your heart open, no matter how painful. I am sorry you are losing your friend Leslie.


  12. Sondra Says:

    You touch my heart with your words and your love for your friend. thank you for sharing her song and voice.


  13. John Says:

    Reblogged this on Johnbalaya and commented:
    From my friend Andrea’s blog …. a loving tribute to a dying friend; and words of advice for when we find ourselves wondering what to bring to our own friend….


  14. Moving and unaffected post, gorgeous song. Thank you.

    Sent while mobile.


  15. Elyse Says:

    John above led me here.

    I hope we all, in our last moments have such a good friend to help us move on. Beautiful tribute to a good friend.


  16. Kimberly Says:

    So beautiful. Thank you.


  17. Just beautiful. I am so touched from this. Without having had the privilege of knowing Leslie, I can embrace the bright spirit of her through your writing.
    Such a wonderful homage to your wonderful friend.
    I love this -> “Polish it, a precious stone you must soon drop into the river.”
    From one Andrea to another ~ thank you for sharing this piece of your heart.


  18. Jamie Dedes Says:

    Very dear and beautiful.


  19. rhobertah Says:

    Andrea, this is the most moving piece of writing about someone dying that I have ever read. Thank you for breaking my heart. In a good way.


  20. I am sitting here at my computer after my trip up to Canada and feel utterly moved by what you’ve written and by Leslie’s voice, her music, the photo you’ve shared. I send you love and gratitude —


  21. M E McMahon Says:

    Beautifully written and beautifully said. I am moved to tears by this poignant tribute to someone you cherish. May she pass gently into the night knowing her loved one’s will carry her memories forever.


  22. Cheryl Says:

    This is the most hauntingly beautiful piece of writing about love I have ever encountered, perhaps because Leslie is one of my closest friends and so are you. The words sound like a soft chime in my heart.


  23. cmflet Says:

    This strikes straight to my heart as I very recently lost a dear, dear friend to terminal illness. What you write here is both beautiful and profoundly true. My heart goes out to you and to Leslie and her family and friends. May we all pass on our journey surrounded by love, memories, friends and family.


  24. annell4 Says:

    This is very beautiful advice!


  25. Nancy Says:

    Sometimes I don’t have time to read your posts when they come in but I always keep them until I can settle in for a slow, thoughtful read, as I know most of your writings deserve. This certainly is one that will stay with me a very long time and will, I’m sure, direct me when I too find the need to know what to take to a dying friend. Merci


  26. Vanessa Says:

    Oh Andrea, your words are like angels and butterflies carryinhg their message. you have such a beautiful way of capturing what is in the heart and laying it out in a way that we can all be blessed by it. Thank you


  27. Dawn Says:

    What a beautiful post. I sent the link to my mother and sister right away. We could all use your wise words in fear and sadness surrounding our losses. Thank you.


  28. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this brave and beautiful post.


  29. redmitten Says:

    oh my. if i say anything, i’ll smush it. so: shhhh


  30. […] What To Take To A Dying Friend […]


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