In the hospital, I lay on my death bed tucked into starched white sheets where I will die. If there is an afterlife to come I will find out, just not at this moment. Right now, in the bed next to me, an old man’s time has come to pass into the unknown. Out of the corner of my eye I watch him. What will dying be like?
A few of his family members each fidget in their own spot. I have been listening to their soft prayers all morning. A woman has pulled a chair up to the edge of his bed. She does not hold his hand because he won’t let her. She keeps trying to embrace his hand, but he moves his out of the way— a jerky movement with little energy behind it, but there is a lot of emotion in his face. I can only guess the reason.
A young man leans against the wall next to the window, his head hung not making eye contact, and a teenage girl sits in a chair surfing on her phone. The screen lights up the dim room.
A nurse comes in and checks the patient’s IV and administers something. “Everything okay?” she asks. He makes what appears to be a spitting motion in her direction, but his lips are dry and cracked, and he barely moves his head. His frail motions show me what age does to the body, the torture it inflicts on the mind. The nurse leaves without an answer.
The woman starts to cry. For a brief moment there is vindication in the old man’s eyes, as though he won.
The look turns into gasps for air with no audible sound. His mouth opens and closes like a fish. No one else looks at him. He searches each of their faces for help, when his eyes lock with mine. Help, they say. Save me.
If I knew him personally I would tell him, don’t make this harder than it already is. Don’t be afraid. You lived a full life. But only he knows that. Maybe that is why he’s angry. Maybe he does not want to go. Maybe he has not lived his life to the fullest.
The heart monitor stops beeping and flat lines. The woman bursts into sobs but nobody moves to comfort her. The teenager puts her phone down avoiding eye contact. I want to tell them death does not have to be a sad thing. Death can be the end of a life full of accomplishments. But I don’t. It is not my business.
At least he didn’t die alone. My family won’t even visit me in this hospital where I will spend my last days. I am proud of my accomplishments and maintained integrity in my life even though some of my family doesn’t see it that way. Can’t have it all. I tuck myself back into the crisp white sheet and wait for my time to come.