I could barely fit through the door of the vintage silver Airstream camper permanently parked behind a hedge of poplar trees by the river. Cheryl ‘s queen sized bed took up half the space inside. A big bed is what Cheryl wanted, her dear friend Earl saw to it that she got everything she needed, she was dying from pancreatic cancer.
Earl stood nearly 7 feet tall, his scruffy salt and pepper beard was as long as his spindly pony tail, which landed in the middle of his muscular back. The weathered red bandana he had tied tight around his forehead was saturated with weeks, maybe months of sweat. Obscenities were tattooed on both forearms and knuckles, he wore a fringed black leather jacket and chaps over his dirty worn out jeans. I could hear his Harley crackle outside as it cooled off.
Earl met me at Cheryl’s place to talk about starting hospice care. I’d never seen finger nails as dirty as Earl’s when he reach out to shake my hand for the first time. Earl could intimidate the toughest of us. He had a threatening stature to say the very least. In times like these, something soft can happen to the rough edges of the seemingly hardened. The ego can shatter when it comes to urgent matters of the heart. Vulnerability finally becomes obvious when the harshest of souls realize that their tough exteriors can’t change the outcome of terminal disease. Layers of a lifetime of hardship can fall away; love is all that matters. We are all the same in this way.