Editor's Note: Gil Schamess and his wife Lisa Wormser wrote a column for Beliefnet from its inception about living with Gil's terminal diagnosis. Shortly after Gil's death on January 29, Lisa sent the following note:
Gil died rather suddenly but very peacefully just three days after deciding to cease treatment and receive hospice care at home. "Decide" is a misleading term; let's say that, hands tied, he decided to ask us to hold them till he passed. We'd been told how brutal this disease can be and we chose not to dwell on it. From start to finish our battle lasted six months.|
In the days before he died Gil's pain finally eased and he was conscious enough to tell us he was comfortable and to say some important things to the people he loved who were there. Conscientious of his many connections to friends and family till the end, the last thing he asked of me was that we sit down to make a list of people he wanted to see. He never lived to make that list, but it would have been impossibly long in any case.
Gil wrote this story in 1993, a few days before or after we met (we never could agree on that part). I consider it one of his finest stories and an apt tribute to his memory.
They kept the luck they found in ledgers. Making it their business, their noses into everything.
There was the car that wouldn't start that kept a family safe from black ice on the highway and twenty-eight deaths, so much twisted metal.
There was the drycleaner's number misprinted in an advertisement that brought together two strangers who fell in love and married.
There was the clumsy painter who knocked a hole in the plaster of the baby's new room, revealing a wasps' nest built in the wall.
There were lottery tickets and gambling sprees and answers to important questions guessed out of the blue and old coins found in attics; they were entered in columns and dated and totaled and covered by the turning of a page.
She kept no food in the house except spices, and she brought home every day what they needed and they ate it all as if there were no dog begging or as if they were preparing to be gone for a long time.
He came home with the papers folded under his arm and more stuffed into his briefcase and some days with magazines in a bag.
They finished the meal and he looked for stories of luck, reading aloud when he found them, and she kept the books.
There were coins in the attic and lottery tickets and lightning striking out of a clear sky the exact spot a man had stood just one second before; he had moved when another man called his name. The other man did not know him but a man with the same name who looked like him.
There were the brothers adopted by different families who married and moved from their homes to the same town to the same neighborhood to meet when their children became friends.
There were hunches to stay in and hunches to go out and to not board that plane and to buy or sell that stock and to look under that cabinet and to try a new route home.
They went out on weekends, driving past where they had left off the last time, with clipboards and the forms they had made and favorite pens, and they found luck that way among houses showing nothing from the outside.
They kept track in ledgers.
She was home earlier and had the dinner ready. He brought the papers and, when they were new, the magazines. When they climbed into bed there were only spices left and the fresh page covering the old.
"We are lucky," they whispered at night. Not remembering how they met, they whispered. "Lucky. Lucky." Huddled in the dark, only spices in the kitchen, the papers outside in the trash with the clean bones.
Read The Valley of the Shadow, the first installment of Lisa's column, "Widow's Walk: A Year's Journey Through Grief," or choose another column here: