Don grows closer to Maria, Vanessa, Freddie & Kathy.
"What's that?" Eleanor demanded.
"Love," Megan said softly.
"Love," Emma echoed simultaneously
"Love," I repeated.
Megan looked at the girls and said, "Your Dad and I tried to teach you that love is the most important ingredient you can have in your lives. Money, careers, possessions, and all the other things we seem to value pale by comparison to having love. We were all blessed to have the bond of love between us, albeit under the shadow of a complex relationship and some secrecy."
I said, "Somehow, society teaches us that we should only have romantic love with one person. We've built a whole social infrastructure around it. There have been some good reasons why, but today many of them no longer apply. Why not love two people? Or more?"
Eleanor looked pensive.
Megan said, "You can choose how to view this -- good or bad, moral or immoral, a joy or a sin. Apply your own yardstick to what you've learned; don't use someone else's. Think for yourself."
Sarah said to her mother, "And you want this ... you want Emma in the family?"
"Yes! Most definitely." She paused and added, "In a way, she's been in the family for thirty-five years."
Sarah turned to Emma and said, "And you can accept us -- Eleanor and me? You don't even know us."
Emma smiled and said in a sweet tone, "Oh, I knew about you before you were conceived. I've heard about your every tear, your joys, your toys, your triumphs, ... and your whole life. I know about your boyfriends, your terrible teenage years, your comings of age, your careers, and your personalities. And, yes, I accept you. I've always accepted and loved you -- you're a reflection of your parents, how could I not."
Sarah stood with tears in her eyes and held her arms open to Emma. "Then I guess you're in." Eleanor followed suit, but I noticed she seemed a little more reserved.
I put my arms around all of them while I reached out and held Megan's hand. She smiled at us and said, "Now, we're talking."
Megan died six weeks later.
We were all at her bedside -- the entire family: Eleanor, Sarah, Craig, and Jake -- Sarah's new fianc__, Emma, and me.
The hospice nurse was there too. We'd been prepared for weeks for this inevitable end. I'd tried to get my head into there being no Megan in my life from the moment she told me six months earlier.
None of my mental preparation or even Em's presence helped me. I sobbed uncontrollably for the entire day, stopping only when I eventually fell asleep exhausted. I'd been up all night, holding Megan's hand. She'd slipped into a coma the evening before, a sign that her body was shutting itself down.
At Megan's request, Emma had made three other trips to visit with her before she got so weak that she couldn't tolerate visitors other than the nurse or me. Em told me that Megan wanted to understand her better, to see how she thought about things, to learn about the life we'd shared on the west coast.
We held a memorial service for Megan at the large gothic Episcopal Church in Wellesley. The service was long and had been planned for months, with Megan's requests for various pieces of music honored in every way. Several hundred relatives and friends attended the service. I broke into tears again during the service and couldn't speak as I had hoped to. Sarah and Eleanor both got their acts together enough to say a few loving words about their mother, and to share some stories about her.
To reduce idle speculation, Emma just blended in with the crowd of visitors.