What do you say to a man about to lose everything?

(A letter I wrote on September 16, 2013)

And I mean everything.

I said goodbye to a dying man tonight, Anna.

His body – bony. Raspy. Mottled. Hunched.

His voice – surprisingly strong.

His eyes – oh his eyes.

His eyes were so scared, Anna. They were the eyes of a young man about to be forced to storm in a trench in Verdun. The eyes of a sick man in a hospital bed, with no machinery around to even check his pulse.

They looked up. Up because we loomed over his tiny frame on his low hospital bed. Up because that’s where your eyes go when you plead.

Anna this guy was dying and his wife wasn’t even there. Dad’s at her apartment/dorm right now trying to get her to stay with him until he dies.

And he’s going to die tonight. The doctors have stopped doing anything proactive, really.

We stood in this awkward half-circle around his bed and each said hello (but really goodbye). I went first. Then Shelly asked if she could hug him and cried. Then Talie gave him a hug. So I got on the hug train.

I was trying to smile. I think if I were going to die I’d like cheerful energy around me, instead of sadness everywhere. Right?

We went outside. Washed thoroughly. Those hospital sinks are nice. Warm-water luxuries. Then I said out loud “I wish I said I love you too”.

Dad said I could go back but he didn’t seem to enthusiastic about it. “Don’t worry. He knows” Shelly chimes in “it doesn’t matter. He won’t even remember.”

“I want to live a life without regrets”. I said. So I walked back in and told him. Shelly and Talie came in with me too. It was nice. Much less stilted. Then Dad had some alone time with him.

Dad finally fessed up to Joe that he is dying. Did he have any final wishes? No. Okay. Crying.

We left the hospital then and in my heard I just heard the phrase over and over again. That lyrics from the Mountain Goats’ Woke up New: “The world in its cold way started coming alive.”

What a cruel joke.

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