I said goodbye to my friend's mother today. Goodbye as in the final goodbye that is. She was in the hospital in a coma after suffering a very severe stroke. I was saddened to hear about the stroke and even more so when I learned there was no way she was going to recover from it.
Fran was 73 and quite vivacious. She wasn't the person you would expect to have been felled by a stroke. I've known several people who had strokes recently. They were not in as good shape as my friend's mother. But they all were able to snap back from it. I just figured Fran would, too.
The people sitting in the ICU waiting room looked like they should be the ones in the hospital bed, not Fran. They were old and weathered. One was wearing a body brace and using a walker due to a recent spinal compression surgery. Most were overweight and walked unsteadily due their aches and pains. These people were all contemporaries of Fran and people I had known since the 5th grade. They had aged, but Fran never seemed to age in my eyes.
She was slim and sprite. Always had a smile to greet you with and a big laugh that exposed her warmth. It wasn't her time to go, but who am I to say? In the end I guess it was.
One of my cousins is a top cancer doctor and researcher. He once said that the problem with being a doctor is that you will always fail. That's because the patient will with absolute certainty die one day. So what is the doctor's job? How long do you to try to preserve life? Who can determine when enough is enough?
I suppose we all think we can cheat death. We try to keep life going a bit longer because we know that the answers we seek will surely come tomorrow. We hope to find out if there is something better than the present, or we convince ourselves it must've been in the past. We forget that living is now, until it's not.
I was graciously invited to go into Fran's room by the family. I didn't want to intrude or impose but everyone was welcoming, especially Fran's husband, Ron. Big Ron as I knew him growing up. A large man in stature and personality. And from a kid's perspective at the time, somewhat intimidating. Fran was always a good counter to Big Ron.
I instinctively put my hand on his back and rubbed it. I told him how peaceful and at rest Fran looked. It was true. She had been in the hospital less than 24 hours so she still had color on her skin. Her eyes were not sunken into her head. I'd seen the death pallor before on ill patients who were awake and clinging to life. The open mouth, shocked eyes. You knew death was knocking. Fran was just asleep, resting peacefully. It was good to see this and I needed to tell Ron.
I think he appreciated it. He turned to me and said he suddenly felt at peace too.
The nurse walked in with her clipboard shortly after and started asking some perfunctory questions: What medications does she take? When did she take her last pill? Has she had a history of illness? Does she have cancer?
All of us in the room chuckled. We knew those questions didn't mean anything now. Fran was being kept alive on life support just so we could say goodbye. But Ron answered all the questions politely and patiently. When the nurse asked if he had any questions she could answer Ron said yes he had only one. With his wry sense of humor he simply asked, "Why?"
Best of 2016
2 months ago