Monday, September 1, 2008

The Long Goodbye

Yesterday I unknowingly fed someone his last meal.

It was harder to watch him die than to know he had passed. He'd come to our center on hospice, though I wasn't told that until he'd been there for nearly a month. Watching him deteriorate -- from my perspective was to see him eat full meals upon arrival, then later to nibble at a tomato and leave the rest of the plate untouched -- was dramatic and astoundingly quick.

He became skeletal as his cancer took away the man he had once been. He'd lost his life partner to AIDS three years ago. And the person who visited him the most was his mother-in-law. She would bring those tomatoes he loved, sit with him in his room and just be there. It was beautiful to witness. She was saddened by the suffering he was experiencing. Her son had also succumbed to cancer, but it was much quicker and far less painful.

As his remaining weeks became days and then hours, we at the center tried to give him a sense of normalcy. He'd do little but quietly nod, if respond at all, to our comments and questions. He had fourteen siblings. Five or six were able to make it into town to say goodbye. I was moved at how they brought nothing but love and hope. Over my long working weekend, I got to know them well. I fed them and baked fresh cookies. My passion for tea gave his sister-in-law a mental distraction while we shared a pot. I told him that I'd see him on Monday when I left for the weekend. But he was gone when I arrived.

I thought I'd cry. But I haven't. By the last three days, he was a shell. His barely functioning body struggled with his soul to let go. And finally he was able to leave. We'll do a small in-house memorial and I'm sure I'll be moved to tears then, but for now I'm happy for him where he has no pain, no big sister speaking to him like a child, and all the garden fresh tomatoes he can stomach.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh my God! I had no idea that you were such a wonderful writer, Jen. Your words put the images you wrote of directly into the minds-eye of the reader. This was a very touching post. Thank you for writing it.

Both Cooking and writing. In what other areas do you you excel?