Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dead man watching

I watched a man die. His family, friends, and I have been watching him die for the last 5 years. I went to visit him in the hospital...in a hospice room...on Saturday. I walked into his room and greeted him with a smile, thinking I was there to provide support or comfort or I-don;t-know-what kind of positive presence to honor him or, at least, to not upset him . And what does he do? He offers me an orange!

He was diagnosed with intestinal cancer 5 years ago. It's the same disease that killed his father early. We watched as he fought it, on and off, through two courses of 'cure'. Only to watch as it came back, determined to beat him down. And it seems it has won. Or has it?

I sat next to him in the little chair pushed next to his bed. The morphine made it hard for him to keep his eyes open and slowed his speech into a soft whisper. I asked if he was in pain and he said no...I held his hand and he told me that the disease had won. "I tried to fight this, but it has taken over. I can;t eat anything. All I have is this cold, clear water...so clean and beautiful."

He told me he was so grateful for everyone who had helped them though this. "If it had been you, we'd have helped you out the way you have helped us out" he said. "Remember the little things...the littlest flower, it's beautiful petals." He squeezed my hand as my eyes welled up with tears. "I don;t have much to offer" he began as a tear slowly dribbled down his right cheek..."but I am thinking about an orange that is sitting on the dining room table. Please ask [his wife] to get that for you...I hope you like oranges...and when you peel into it and eat it, feel the cool tasty juice in your mouth, I hope you will take time and enjoy it".

He was beyond the cares of time and place that had occupied his regular life and that seem to occupy all of we temporary survivors...and sharing that state of grace, he freed me...perhaps he knowsand was understating just what he had to offer...poetic in a way that seemed natural...even supernatural.

I grasped his hand tighter and told him we would look after things for him...that I would look forward to seeing him again, in another place to come. And if it is true that we all see what we beleive, then I see him living, even in death, in the hearts and minds of everyone he has touched.

Goodbye...for now.