He was going for a diagnostic procedure. He was pale, just one light color away from blending to the white bed linens. He was lying on his bed, eyes closed, his arms rising and falling with his breathing as it lay crossed on top of his chest. He must not be really sleeping for when I neared his bed, he opened his eyes and gave me a trembling smile. A smile which quivered not from old age but tiredness. It was evident in his eyes and the way his shoulders drooped in melancholy. He reached for me with his right shaky hand and I grasped it in both my hands, noticing how icy cold they were even when the ward was warm. I asked how he was doing. He said he was tired. He said he could feel himself slipping away.
The last time I saw him, his eyes did not open when I stood at his bedside. He was reclined on the abundance of soft pillows he was propped on. His breathing was deep and labored. His hand was tinged blue, cold…so cold as I held it in my hand. I stayed there for a while and sang a song that had been playing in a loop in my head all day.
In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark, cold “hospital room”
He would have laughed at that last one. He was a jolly man. Always finding humor in anything, even the repeated blood tests he had to go through. He was always polite and smiling to us even when he wasn’t feeling that great. He loved telling stories, too.
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here.
His loved ones were all present in his last moments. They hugged him. They held his hands. They didn’t let go of him until he took his last breath. He was well loved. He lived a good life.
I have seen many deaths. I cared for them in their last hours. Tried to make them comfortable, offered comfort when they were restless. Held their hand when they were feeling scared and did not want to be left alone. I gave them medicine to keep the pain at bay. I informed their loved ones about the inevitable. I cried when there was no one to witness it. Our job is beautiful. It is exciting and even fun. However, interspersed with all the happy ones are the heartbreaking moments,too, just like this one.