Every morning now he comes and sits beside me, 

Reminding me, by presence alone, how precious is this sun-folding day. 

You don’t expect to make a great new friend this late in life. 

Oh, you might expect the comfort of new helpers — one-way relationships

with the guy who shovels the snow you used to shovel;

or the doctor who wants to operate on your cataracts.

Expecting it or not, you might be blessed with the children of your children,

New little hearts and minds that fill your own.

But a full-grown presence, every bit your equal,

Someone with as big an interest in taking as in giving,

Who makes each shared moment more than it would have been alone —

This is a gift you never looked for, heard about, or imagined possible.

Not a lover, or a pet, or a long-lost brother.

No one who would think to leave you for another.

Someone who will be near now until your last warm breath

This unexpected friend for life called Death.

— Robert Kegan

The author is Meehan Professor of Adult Learning at Harvard University and a Chilmark summer resident.