My little sister spent a long weekend in a hospice before opting to go home to die in her own bed. Scratch that - she never wrapped her mind around the fact that she was going to die, she was going home to LIVE. And she did not appreciate that she was stuck in a place designated for end of life patients.
So home she went. It was about 10 days later that we lost the poor dear to the ugly grip of breast cancer. She was surrounded by family and I am assured that that made her happy. If for no other reason than she was finally the center of some long-term familial attention.
Anyway, this morning I was thinking about that weekend in the hospice and a scene I witnessed between two 70-something men - one a patient, the other his friend.
I was taking a needed time-out in the lobby when a man came in and asked to see his friend. A few minutes later one of the angels (a term I affectionately call hospice nurses) wheeled out his friend.
For the next half an hour they barely spoke to each other. They mostly just soaked up the powerful presence of one another. When they did talk it was awkward small talk - like the way a lot of guys do in emotional settings. Neither really knew what to say or how to say it, I suppose.
For instance the visiting man might say, "Well, the weather has been pleasant."
And the patient might reply, "That's nice."
Their conversation really was that simple.
I have no idea who they were to each other. Bothers, friends, work associates? No clue - and they didn't provide one either. I tried not to pay attention to them but it was hard not to as the waiting room was fairly small and they were just a few feet away from me. But as an intense people watcher I sat back and tried not to watch.
The main thing I took away from this meeting was fear. Fear permeated every look, every gesture and every word. Both men tried to navigate around it but there was no escaping the fear. I couldn't conceive what might be going on in their heads. Or their hearts.
I could just tell that neither one of them wanted to enact this painful scene. I imagined that they'd rather be on a boat somewhere fishing and not talking to each other. Or sharing a couch together yelling at the TV because some bum intercepted a football in a crucial payoff game. You know, like in the good old days.
After about half an hour the visiting friend said in a low voice, "Well, I guess I should get going. I'll try to see you one more time before..." He stopped himself before he finished his thought.
The patient replied with a slight nob of his head, "I understand. Thank you."
They shook hands and the visitor departed for what I would assume was a great gulp of fresh air from that nice February day while the patient was wheeled back to his room and returned to his bed to wait for the inevitable - in fear.