I fondly remember André as my harshest critic and, if Remembering Uzza gains a respectable audience share, he will also prove to be the most insightful. We had a falling-out because of some unfortunate remark I made about him being insensitive, which he wasn’t, to my wife’s difficult journey. As fate would have it, he lost his adored Diane to cancer almost a year before my Lucette left me.
He said he gave up on Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice because of all the verses that kept interrupting the narrative. Couldn’t I find a way, he said, of telling the story without all the interruptions? Put the verses in an index of some sort at the end of the book, he suggested, and let the reader decide if he wants to know more by going to the source.
At the time, I thought what he was suggesting betrayed a lack of understanding of what was involved.
In August of 2018, Lucette and I moved into a residence where I could provide her with the near constant supervision that her deteriorating lung condition now required and to be with her when the time came. Watching over her was a pleasure which left me free to do other things.
Her knowledge, dedication, intellectual honesty and affection made Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice, and everything that came after, possible. Could we do it again, one last time?
She was more than okay with my trying to give form to Andre’s vision. Half-joking, I said she could not leave me until we had completed the first full draft. Two days after it became clear to her that that milestone had been reached, she called the number that was given to her when she was approved for assisted dying and said she was ready. A few days later, on Friday the fifth of July 2019 at two in the afternoon, we said our last goodbye.
She declined her ordained cousin’s offer to give her the last rites.
“Faith,” Mark Twain said, “is believing in something that you know to be untrue.” Even with the end just moments away Lucette did not seek comfort in what was for her, a lie. She did not need it.
The doctor, who would shortly allow her to die on her terms, asked her, “Madam, how do you feel?”
She replied, “Happy, very happy.”
But that is not the only extraordinary thing she said that mournful day.
At her request, I had ordered smoked salmon on bagel and cream cheese for lunch and her favourite wine as accompaniment. It was a few minutes before the nurse who would get her ready for what came next to make her appearance when she raised her glass and said: "I would like to propose a toast." What she wanted us to toast caught all of us by surprise. It was not what you would have expected from someone whose existence, as was her wish, would shortly come to an end.
We all raised our glass and she said: "À la vie! (To life!)".
I will never get over the serenity with which she crossed over into, what is for those who value empirical truths above all, the great unknown. I hope I will have her courage, when my time comes, to not seek comfort in a lie.
Thank you my beloved Lucette for helping me see it all through; all kindness and love to the very end. I will miss you terribly.
Bernard August 26, 2019
Our last dance...
I would not have had the courage to ask that beautiful young woman in an enclosed office still working away on a Friday afternoon, but it was either giving it a try or admitting to my sister and her husband that I did not have a date for a ball at the Chateau Laurier to which they had invited me.
Lucette loved to dance. She admitted later that that was the reason she accepted my invitation: she would get to dance. I definitely did not woo her with my awkward impression of Fred Astaire. But still, at the end of the evening she said she would like to see me again. Thank you, Lord.