She stepped over the threshold of their home, a visitor. Through the doorway the hospital bed was visible and the hiss of the oxygen tank audible. She heard the patient’s voice speaking in his native tongue, French. His son whispered in her ear that he was talking to family abroad. She stepped into the room and put her bag and coat on a nearby chair. He waved to her, finished his call and gestured for her to come closer. She took his hand in both of hers and squeezed. He thanked her for coming.
The hour passed quickly. She learned that his wife, having been always very demure and quiet in the office, was quite the spitfire at home. His wife chastised him for wanting an ounce of red wine when he was barely eating any food. Though he was hungry at times, he could only eat a few mouthfuls before the nausea set in, this despite being on the appropriate medication to aid in controlling his nausea. She explained that slowly his need for food would diminish and that would be okay. So long as he could enjoy sipping on water, juice, or wine, that would likely be enough. She learned that he enjoyed doing puzzles.
At one moment, he looked her in the eye and asked if she could help him go. Tears welled up in his eyes. Then in the next breath he said he wasn’t ready. She reassured him that these emotions were normal. There would come a time when he would become less aware of what was happening and so she reminded him to say the things that needed to be said now while he still had the chance.
She forgot about the tea that had been offered and accepted. He told her to drink it before it got cold. He asked for water, then said he was tired and wanted to rest.
She said goodbye and squeezed his hand again. She said she’d like to visit again soon. He said he’d like that.