January 12, 1996

The first week of January was bright and bitterly cold. Pat Geier and Cristobhal, our friend from Guatemala, had spent Christmas and New Year’s with us and had already left for Louisville, but she was at the ready. Surely it would be this week? Surely it would be this week.

As it was, we spent the evenings vigiling around Mev’s bed. On a Tuesday, there must have been eight of us. Mev’s breathing had become labored, and her heart rate could go as high as 180. This must be it, the onset of the death rattle.

At one point a friend wanted to offer comfort, we were so eerily silent having to listen to Mev struggle to breathe. So he started to read from a passage from Saint Paul. As I listened to my friend read, I silently reacted: “This just doesn’t do it for me!” In the broken-hearted spirit of Mev’s 1989 breakdown in Brazil, I wanted to snatch that Bible away from him and slam it shut: “There’s nothing you can read now that would do any of us any good!” Ah well, he likely wasn’t reading it for me, but for Mev, or himself even.

I caught myself. I didn’t want to make a scene – after all, Mev was likely dying before our very ears. But I wanted something more appropriate for what I was feeling (and all that I had felt, so at home with Mev in her and our nakedness, how at home she was in her body, especially during the siege). So I requested the Bible and opened the book, not knowing what I would find, mumbling something about a husband’s prerogative before his dying wife. As I held the tome in my hands, flipping through the pages, I became inspired: Of course! Exactly!

We had wondered if Mev had become blind — she was asleep most of the day — or even if she had become deaf. She seemed so out of it and unresponsive. As an experiment, at one point I played a Sinead O’Connor song blaring from the CD player next to her bed, and it made no reaction on her whatsoever. I didn’t know for sure if Mev heard me as I said to her, “Now this is something from the Bible I want you to hear.” And I read a passage from the Song of Songs, chapter 4:

Behold, you are beautiful, my love,
Behold, you are beautiful!
Your eyes are dovesBehind your veil. . .
Your lips are like a scarlet thread,
And your mouth is lovely.
Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil. .
Your two breasts are like two fawns,
Twins of a gazelle,
That feed among the lilies. . .
You are all fair, my love;
There is no flaw in you . . .
You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,
You have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes,
With one jewel of your necklace.
How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much better is your love than wine,
And the fragrance of your oils than any spice!
Your lips distil nectar, my bride;
Honey and milk are under your tongue;
The scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon.

Some time later, I whispered to Mev as I bent down to her, “Mevvie, I love you very much. I am going out for a little lunch. I’ll be back soon.” And as I lowered my mouth to kiss her, she suddenly strained her neck up to meet me in a kiss. I was startled: So she could still hear! So she could still move! So she could still kiss!

As I returned from eating lunch at the Silk Road restaurant, I could hear Becky Hassler blurting out, “Someone, quick, go get Mark. I think Mev is dying right now!”

Becky was right.

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