Three weeks – the difference between life and death

Sometimes there’s no time to say goodbye.

Three weeks ago, Mr L (an old guy in a hostel whom I visit through a visiting program) was taking himself off to morning coffee at his local shops of a morning, nearly running down unwary pedestrians with his motorised scooter as he went.  Three weeks ago, he was still watching the Australian Football League (AFL) and keeping up with the tennis, and tottering down to the dining hall for a meal with his old friends (old in both senses of the word).  Three weeks ago I dropped in to give him a present, and as he always does he said “Give me a peck on the cheek will you dearie!” so I did, with a longer cuddle because it was Christmas.

Today his room is quiet and dark, the only sound the soft hiss of the oxygen with its tube forking up his nose.  He’s lost all the weight he ever had, his hands clench and unclench gently on the sheet.  His eyes are wide open but they don’t seem to see anything.  I say, hello sweetheart, it’s Jane, but there’s no sign he hears me.  His son, standing tall and stiff behind me, says he’s fading fast.  I won’t see him alive again.

It’s a shock, to come from my beautiful lover to this death bed.  I suppress the tears that come to my eyes  – though I feel like sobbing – because I don’t have a right to cry in front of this man, the successful businessman, who always introduces himself to me as if he’s never met me before.  I wait till I get to the car, and have a short cry.  That night I’m laughing at something Ms M has said, but dearest Mr L, I haven’t forgotten you.  I’ll always remember you kindly, kindly old man that you are.

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24 thoughts on “Three weeks – the difference between life and death

    • Well, for his sake I endured up to an hour of tv sport – nearly fell off my chair yawning! But he is a dear person (is or was – as a ‘visitor’ I don’t get kept in the loop on these things, but it looked pretty close to the end to me).

    • I don’t like his son very much, to tell the truth. I felt like I was de trop. But maybe that’s just me being super sensitive. The other thing is, I don’t know the guy at all, and he might be trying to be brave. But one never knows.

  1. He has the warm kindness of you to see him on his way, and as you say, you will always have memories of him.

    but I’m so sorry you both have to go through this.

  2. so sorry you lost someone that you shared caring with. know the feeling to well on how hard it is to lose someone you have a connection with when you aren’t part of the formal ‘family’. no one to really share the mourning with.

    • yes I guess you’ve hit the nail on the head there, I have no ‘real’ relationship with him. I won’t even get invited to the funeral (although for Hilda, I was, and that was nice, although dispiriting). Oh well.

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