James Avery’s Leave -Taking

When James Avery, star of Fresh Prince of Belair, died at the age of 68 on Wednesday, his wife of 26 years wasn’t with him.

Barbara Avery had spent most of her days and nights in her husband’s hospital room through the weeks he was being treated for complications of open heart surgery.

But with James seeming to improve, Barbara left briefly to do some errands or to get something to eat.

When she returned, she found him dead.

It’s likely that she feels guilty for not being there as he passed from this world.

Her grief at his loss is probably compounded by the feeling that she let him die alone.

This happens in so many families.

People don’t get to the hospital in time when a patient takes a turn for the worse. They’re delayed by traffic, bad weather, flights that don’t arrive on time, even parking the car.

Or, as with the Averys, the patient seems to be rallying and the family member seizes the opportunity to take a necessary break from the bedside.

It’s possible, too, that James Avery chose to die when his wife wasn’t present, to spare her experiencing his death.

Doctors know that patients sometimes delay their time of death until after a family occasion or a visit from someone special. So too they may choose a time when they are alone.

Barbara and others who miss the moment of passing of a beloved spouse or parent ought to forgive themselves for the happenstance of being away from the bedside at the moment of death.

It is, after all, just a moment. What really matters are all the millions moments of shared life and love that have come before. The last moment of taking leave of this world is in any case a solitary, inner process. And a final farewell, when love abounds, is never final anyhow.