The news that my brother's cancer would end in death hung between us--him in one chair, me in another. Monitors beeped outside his hospital room while inside the television sent a low hum into the empty spaces. We would not be capable to telling anyone what, exactly, was on at this moment any more than we felt able to yet share the doctor's latest revelation. "Six months to a year," sounded somewhere between finite and hopeful. Yet, I knew.
"I want you to do something for me," I said around the knot in my throat.
"What's that?" he asked.
"I want you to help me through this by making sure all your finances are in order. I want you to tell me who you want to have what. And ..." I took a deep breath. "I want you and me to go see Ed Thompson. I want to know exactly what you want when it comes to your funeral."
Van agreed. Yes, he could do that for me.
A month later, when it had become even more evident that six months to a year was a pipe dream--something doctors say when they know the end is more than a little near--I drove my brother to the funeral home where Ed was to meet us. As I shut off the car, I turned to my baby brother--looking so pale, so thin, so tired--and said, "I'd rather have a root canal than do this."
He gave me a half smile. "You and me both."
We both took a deep breath. "Well, come on then," I said. "Let's do this."
An hour later, we were done ... my brother had chosen his casket, his vault, his visitor book and matching thank you cards. He had also requested that a local group of talent from our church sing "Have a Little Talk with Jesus" because our father used to sing it during the car rides my brother had given to Daddy during his own chemo treatments.
His eyes teared up as he made the request ... precious moments I'd never been privy to that would become a stolen moment a few weeks later.
All the while, throughout his journey, a single question echoed within my heart: When?
"I don't mind dying," he said to me once. "But I dread the journey."
We were lost. No question about it. We had our phones out, our GPS apps up and ready, and yet ... we were lost. We'd even asked locals how to find The Book of Kells, located in Trinity College, and even they steered us wrong. We followed the thick blue line on our phones to a T, but just as we'd reach our destination, the destination jumped to another location. Finally, we spotted a storefront sign that read "Tourist Information." Just outside, in a lovely town square, a local band played for the amusement of onlookers ready to toss a euro or two into an opened guitar case.
"I'll go ask for directions," Clare said to me, seeing that I'd become enthralled with the show.
"I'll wait here."
The band played a song and I clapped along, grateful for the respite. When Clare returned, her face held a look of both frustration and relief. "Well?" I asked.
She pointed to a wall behind me. "We're actually here. It's literally right there."
So, we made it to the Book of Kells, a building of halls holding a book made famous by it's unique beauty and content. This book, an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels penned in Latin, is housed within the hallowed grounds of Trinity College. Clare and I wove our way through the quad, found a line of multi-cultured visitors waiting to enter the display, became confused as French tourists, and then were finally given entrance. By the time
we found ourselves in the cool, nearly silent and reverent interior, we'd been walking for hours, had stood in line for an excruciating amount of time (all things considered), been misunderstood (namely because we'd somehow ended up with the French tour) and nearly sent to the end of the line, had paid an exorbitant amount in our estimation for the entry fee. But, we were determined to enjoy the exhibition. After all, compared to what I'd been through earlier in the summer, this entire day had been both a treasure and a cake walk. And it was something to see, especially the library where
some 200,000 volumes rise to lofty heights and where, at its very end, the book is displayed, encased in glass (only, it's a replica, which they don't tell you until you actually get to it and read the fine print).
Clare and I snapped photo after photo of the stacks and of statues and, yes, of "the book," and then we made our way to a gift shop where we spent a few euros, then sauntered outside where we
walked around the quad for a while, enjoying the afternoon's warmth and breeze. We even gazed on as a young couple had their wedding photos taken outside the chapel. And then, with nothing left to do, we decided to find a little Irish pub we'd walked past about 20 times in our earlier wanderings. (After all, sometimes the getting lost is about what you find along the way. It's the journey, not the destination, that keeps us intrigued. No matter how lost or confused or dreadful it may become.)
"Let's go to Kennedy's," I said, "because one of my family names is Kennedy and," I pointed in the general direction we should head in, "because I'm starving."
"Same!" Clare exclaimed.
Finding Kennedy's was a cinch (I think that, by this point, we could have done so in the dark). And the food was beyond delicious (my first fish and chips!).
After our meal and a most delectable dessert, we headed back to the train station, boarded, and returned to Bray ... physically worn out (over 12,000 steps that day!), full as ticks, and remarkably happy even with the little glitch in the day's middle.
Tired as we were, and in spite of all we'd done that day--traveling from Bray, getting donuts, touring The Museum of Natural History and The National Gallery of Ireland, getting lost, finding The Book of Kells, dining at Kennedy's, and then returning to Bray by train--there was still one more thing to do.
And this was a moment only God could provide.
Within the quad at Trinity College
One of the dozen or so statues among the stacks
A display within The Book of Kells
Delicious Fish & Chips at Kennedy's in Dublin, Ireland!