Harry's Light

The diagnosis came into our world shattering our stability, our plans, and our future. The gentle, soft-spoken doctor explained to Harry, "You could live another two years with treatment or another two weeks without."

Harry chose life; the chemo began; the days were orchestrated around IVs with mysterious compounds dripping, dripping hour after hour.

Two weeks, four weeks, eight weeks passed. Strength returned, food looked appealing, and plans took root—a return to Ireland, to the verdant, peaceful Southwest where the frequent misty hours were known as "Soft days" by the villagers.

This late riser, this morning curmudgeon was up at first light, bringing coffee, pouring over maps, and nudging his companions into movement. "Come on, come on, it’s almost eight o’clock, the day’s half over!" What transformation was this—joyous but startling—and a bit wearing on his traveling companions.

They stood gazing at the meadow, Harry’s arm enfolding my sister. She shared later that "He said that he didn’t think he would live to experience this moment."

It rained and stopped and rained again. He chose a large umbrella with Ireland splashed across the front. We walked and nodded and smiled at villagers who nodded back, murmuring, "Grand day, isn’t it?"

But these grand days and adventures completed themselves and we returned to our land, still filled with gratitude and feeling quite Irish. However, we were becoming more aware of a lingering anxiety.

The disease did return; the treatments resumed, and the possibility of his dying began to loom for each of us.

Our Quaker friends called. "We’re holding Harry in the Light," they said—a new concept for us but an image that becomes increasingly vivid.

My nephews were a steady, loving, witty presence. Their quiet jazz, played with such skill and passion, filled the home and evoked a smile as he lay so quietly. We sat beside him, not wanting to leave, not wanting to release his hand. Friends sat in turn and thanked us for the privilege.

Their youngest came to us in the night and whispered, "He’s gone." His body was so still in the bed. His spirit seemed so present.

His body was taken to the medical school to volunteer for students—in death as he had so often done in life. The sun had not quite risen. My sister slipped out to the back yard overlooking the trees.

She called, "Come out—I can’t believe what I’m seeing!" I stood beside her, and through the tears, saw great beams of light falling on each side of Harry’s garden. We were awed. No words came. But, as the light softened, she remembered the promise of her friends, "We are holding Harry in the Light."

Dorsy Hill

Dorsy Hill was a member of the Mennonite Church for many years and now considers herself a Quaker. She occasionally attends Mountain View (Colo.) Meeting.