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Reconnecting with Rebecca...

I left Raleigh at just after 2:30 to pick Rebecca up Elizabeth's mother's house in Chapel Hill. I called at 3:30 from 15/501 exit of 40 to tell Rebecca that I was running a little behind.

"Could you give me another half-hour or so here?"

I stopped by Canopy Systems, and spent 20 minutes or so with Robert. He had a huge pile of Christmas cards waiting to be licked.

I got to the house at about 4:10. The driveway and all of the walkways were totally covered with leaves. It was hard to tell if the ways to the doors were paved or not. I made a mental note that it might be a good "random act of kindness" to go out there a week Saturday, and rake for them.

Inside, I met Sarah, Elizabeth's mother. She took me into the living room while Rebecca finished up with Elizabeth. Sarah spent most of the time with me fiddling with a hearing aide that wouldn't cooperate. She kept saying, "It's so cold in here, but I can't turn the heat up, because Elizabeth can't breathe when it's on."

Rebecca came out, and I took a picture of her and Sarah together. Then we went into Elizabeth's room for one of Rebecca and Elizabeth. Elizabeth didn't look as bad as I'd prepared myself for, but her complexion seemed a little gray, almost a light blue to me. She has cancer of the lungs, liver and lymph, I believe they said. She's in hospice care, and knocking on death's door.

We finished up there, and headed back to Raleigh. The traffic actually wasn't bad at all. On the way, Rebecca told me the most incredible "Sally story" of all time.

We waited for Robert to arrive. He did, and we had drinks and some chip and dip, and looked at a stack of pictures of Rebecca's. Rebecca checked in with "Cack and Walker," and we confirmed that they'd join us for dinner at Irregardless at 7:30. Cack is Elizabeth's sister, and Walker is Cack's son.

We arrived on time, and after about 5 minutes, noticed that Cack was sitting at the table next to us! Walker was outside having a cigarette. She moved to our table, and shortly afterwards, Walker joined us.

The night was filled with a lot of small talk at the beginning, with occasional short conversations between Rebecca and Cack about Elizabeth. For a while, Rebecca did talk about horses and humans in her most mesmerizing and spiritual way. There was a most fabulous singer entertaining, accompanied by a guitar player. They both looked like they absolutely enjoyed their work.

I had the rib-eye, with some horseradish mashed potatoes, and a green bean medley. Robert had the seared tuna. Rebecca and Cack both had stuffed cabbage (vegan), and we all had salads. Walker did not get an entree. I gave him part of my steak, and Rebecca gave him part of her stuffed cabbage.

At the end of the evening, Rebecca visited with a black couple who was sitting at the table next to us. I paid for mine, Robert's, and Rebecca's meals on my credit card, and handed the bill to Walker. He put out $15. Cack was up talking to the entertainers, and when she came back, picked up the check to figure her part.

"I've already paid for the bottom three," I said. "And that's Walker's 15 dollars with the check. As she was looking at it, the waitress came up, and as she scanned the check with her finger, she said something like, "Oh. We're going to have to do some negotiating here." Then, she added something up, double-checking her total, I guess.

Outside, we were saying our good-byes when the door opened, and the waitress came out with our check in her hand. Evidently, either Cack or Walker hadn't covered their share. Very embarrassing all the way around.

Back at the house, Robert said his good-byes. Rebecca and I talked until about 1:10 -- about so many things -- her two days at Elizabeth's mother's house, what she thought should be important on one's deathbed, and what actually turned out to be, saying goodbye to a dying friend, the evening at Irregardless, the reconnection (or lack thereof, really) with Cack, and how great it was to be with each other again after about three years. She absolutely adored Robert.

"You're just one of my favorite people on the planet, John Martin," she said.

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