“You know what the worst part is?”
“There’s no one around at night to talk to. About….stuff. People are coming around and saying hi but there’s no one here just sitting and listening.”
Said the dying man to me today.
He said this to me on the phone.
I have never met him. I had three phone calls with him today. And I suspect I know more about his emotions and fears than anyone else. He’s lived his life and made decisions that have gotten him to a very lonely setting with a very sad prognosis. In less than 6 hours I felt like I was the best friend he had. I don’t mean that to reflect anything about me. I mean that as a reflection of him, his life. I have some history of his life. And it seems he made some pretty poor choices along the way. Choices that have paved a way to where he is now.
Alone. In a house. No family close by proximity or affection. There are some family who are distant and trying to help. It seems like they are doing what they can. But when you are dying, and alone, a little help seems so…..little. There are friends who stop in to say hi. But he made it a very painful point that no one is just there.
What must we do in life to get to this point?
Or what must we neglect to do to get to this point?
I have come across some very lonely people during my career. And it is a huge blow to my sense of humanness when I come face to face with someone who truly knows lonely and sadness. I recognize in talking with him, and others who know him, that it was his own path that got him there. Even now he made choices that got him from being surrounded by “help” to sitting alone in a house with no one to assist him.
And he told me that the change is hard. To go from a “tough guy” to someone who can’t do a “damn thing” for himself. He isn’t adjusting to one thing. Like facing death square on isn’t enough, before he gets there, he has to deal with losing all that he has been. There’s no way to predict how this will turn out.
Tonight, while I sit in my house writing this, I can’t help but picture a few things. Husband sits next to me. I can pick up the phone and call any number of people who would take time to talk to me. More than a few who if I called and said come, here, now, they would. I can get on my computer and communicate with friends via numerous technological methods of staying in touch. It wouldn’t even have to be someone I’ve seen in recent years. I could get on Facebook and if I posted that I was sad and needed comfort I can guarantee that I would get one, if not fifteen, responses of comfort and words of cheer and support. I can do this. Without thought. Without any contemplation at all.
But I picture him.
A man. Dying. Literally dying. Alone. He won’t die tonight. He won’t die tomorrow. He has time. But it is measurable.
What would be going through my head if I was measuring my time and noting the failings of my body. With each change knowing I’m that one step closer to death. What if I sat in this chair and knew that because this happened, it would lead to this, which would lead to this. And all of this is leading to my death. And I looked to my right and no one sat in the chair to listen to my fear. My anger. My frustration.
Someone sits like that tonight.
What if I had no one to call. No one to email. No one to write a letter to explain all of the things I had done differently. Or all of the things I did because of my own pain.
The phone conversation it’s self seemed to be part of the transition. Sometimes he was very much the man painted to me by others. Aggressive. Opinionated. Rough around the edges. But that part of him seemed to be overwhelmed with a need. To talk. He made it a point to tell me numerous times that he knows he’s “on my last leg”, that death is here. He told me at one point that he wished he had just “gone” when he had been passed out and didn’t know anything. Now, he knows. Now he has to deal with thoughts. He has things to say.
And he wants someone to listen.
But he has lived his life to now. Pushing away a world full of people. Or running from a world full of people.
He is alone. And dying.
And no one is just there.