As I walked into the room, the patient looked up at me as if I was the Angel of Death and asked, “Is it time, David?”
His caregivers were silent. I knew what he was asking.
“Is it time”?
“Yes, David. Is it time”?
I looked down at my watch and said “No. The Indians don’t play for another couple of hours”.
The tension lifted. The nurses and social worker left the room to attend to the needs of the other sixteen members of the Hospice unit. I was left alone with my friend.
My friend was expecting to be visited, as he neared death, by his friends and his enemies. I told him how lucky he was that I was there. Since we never agreed politically, I was an adversary and yet I am also a friend. He seemed comforted by the thought.
Over the next several hours we talked, we prayed, we sat quietly; we endured the visit of some caregivers and welcomed the attention of others. I watched. I listened. And while holding his hand and keeping him relaxed, I monitored his pulse.
At one point his pulse slowed, his breathing became labored and I thought that he was ready to slip away and be at painless peace. But it was not to be. At least not yet.
When will the Angel of Death visit? Soon, I suspect. Very soon. I will try to be there with my friend so that he doesn’t have to face Death alone.