Pager bleats its rising and lowering notes (de-da-do-da-de). Familiar as my name, but as I am wading from sleep to wake, I seem to think that a fire truck, siren blaring, is racing down my street. Fire? Should I wake up? I snap back to me, awake, trying to make out the number back-lit on the tiny screen in the dark bedroom. It's the nursing home, telling me he has died. It's 2:15 am.
I ask for the story, how were his last hours, minutes? Was he in pain? Was anyone with him? When someone dies overnight, the staff never seem to get what I'm asking. I always end up making someone feel defensive. Or maybe that's just projection. I certainly feel sad, bad, horrible that I wasn't there. I know. I know. I did what I could. In this case, it just didn't feel like enough. Or I just got too attached this time. This time. This one. Yes.
I call his daughter. "No, no! I really wanted to be there. I was so exhausted, I came home to sleep for a few hours. I feel horrible that I left." So we both feel horrible, console one another. She certainly rose to the occasion, did everything she could to help him, while no one else in the family even visited.
The hardness was that he didn't want to die, wasn't ready, much too young, much too much undone, had just started over, this thing caught him in the neck and strangled him without so much as a warning punch. And the pain. Was terrible. Even on the highest doses of opioids I have ever prescribed. Pain mixed with fear, anger, angst. I think I loved him for these few weeks, a helpless sort of love because I couldn't make it better. I thought.
Daughter said to me: "He liked you. Really liked you. That's a big complement, you know. He sees right through shit, and you were real to him."
Thank you. Thank you for reminding me that it's ok to get attached. To feel a death so strongly that it takes your breath away. Secretly hoping it will happen soon, never happen.
So much, so hard to describe. So hard. Over now.
I never got back to sleep.