Denlow, Journey Continued

A year has passed since I wrote about Denlow Enlow in last year’s newsletter. Melissa Enlow contacted the Living/Dying Project in 2007 to ask for spiritual support for her husband, who had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). We’ve been meeting once a week for over a year and a half.

Denlow’s journey continues. As we’ve all expected, his capacities have diminished as his body succumbs to the reality of this unrelenting disease. Though Denlow’s mind remains sharp and his insights evocative, words are harder to form, whether he speaks them or composes them on the computer.

His breathing is much diminished and his fingers more difficult to control but his writing is as moving as ever. We’ve included a recent poem entitled My Four Corners. As he and I have discussed his imminent death, Denlow expressed a wish that his ashes be scattered at the “four corners of his life.”

Sitting at the computer with Denlow and reading this and other poems as they slowly emerge from his still vital and creative mind, I’m struck by the depth of these words. I know his story well enough after hours together that I appreciate how each word resonates with the fullness of a life that, though coming to an end, has been richly lived.

It is perhaps the fact I’ve spent so many months with Denlow, though I’m inclined to believe it has more to do with the sweet presence of this man, that have made our meetings so precious to me. I feel as though Denlow has been teaching me how to open my heart in the face of loss in ways I hadn’t imagined possible. His living in the face of dying is inspiring. I love him dearly and thank him for the gifts he continues to give me.

Melissa recently asked if I’d be willing to officiate at the memorial service for Denlow after he dies. I was deeply honored and accepted. Since then Denlow and I have been preparing for the service in a conversation that is at times filled with humor and at other times great sadness as he contemplates saying farewell to everyone and everything he loves. Living with dying is not an easy thing to do, yet it can be remarkably precious.

— Curtis Grindahl

Attached is a PDF file that essentially replicates what was presented in the newsletters, including photos, graphical images and related poems. I also add at the end a final poem from Denlow titled “Terminal Velocity.” This document also includes color photos rather than the black and white photos used in the newsletter.