Thursday, October 07, 2010


Last night I sat at the hospital holding the hand of my friend. He believes he's dying. He has two diseases that are both terminal. He's had HIV for more than 25 years and, if that weren't enough, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease a few weeks ago. His quality of life is rapidly declining.

I've been around the block enough times to know that he very well could be dying. Or he could battle through all the side effects to his medicines, he could rally his fighting spirit and he could live for another five years.

Life is like that. Unpredictable. Unknowable. And, frankly – a little bit unfair.

We sat in the corner room last night, watching the sunset out his window. He called it the hospital penthouse suite. The view was spectacular. We talked about people we knew, memories we shared and the little things that make life special. We talked about adult diapers, dignity and dry heaves. He told me stories about friends who had already walked the road ahead of us and had prepared him, bit by bit, to make his passage as well.

Some of the stories he shared were funny – hospital phone calls that embarrassed him in front of family and friends. Some of the stories were sad – of friends we had in common who left this world kicking and screaming. But all of the stories were tiny threads that tied our lives to each other.

As my friend began to tire we sat in silence and I thought about yet another of the gifts that human beings can bring to the world. Just as N. and D. had taught my friend how it is to die, he was teaching me.

When it was time for me to go, and time for him to sleep, I took my leave. As I leaned in to give him a kiss he began to cry again. This time he didn't look at me, but quietly whispered, "Good-bye." I don't think it will be the final time he says those words to me. But, for him, it was the right thing to say.

No comments: