I went to see an old friend the other day. He's 49 years old, dying, and there's nothing we can do about it.
A once youthful, athletic college football player and rock-hard baseball player, he is bedridden now; his body much like the thin, metal frames on each side of his mattress. Unable to speak barely above a whisper, he acknowledges me with a glance, then turns quickly away. I think there's anger in his eyes, perhaps denial, but regardless of his disposition, I am here, in his overly warm hospital room, making small talk with whomever is listening. He is dozing in and out of the present moment.
Close to an hour later, after waiting for him to have a miraculous bout of clarity and alertness, I tell him that I love him and I get up to leave. His eyes are closed. He hears me, maybe. But, maybe not.
I whisper to his wife and his mother that they can call me if they need anything. They smile politely and I can almost hear them say, "I need for my husband to be well. I need for my son to walk out of this place healthy and whole," because that's what I would say. Instead, they are cordial and polite and they will let me know if there is anything I can do.
In my car, I stare through the windshield at a concrete wall, waiting for a scream or a strangled cry. Something... Anything to help me cope. But, after a while, nothing happens, so, I put the car in reverse, back out, and I go home only to find myself weeping in my pillow in the silence of the night.
Update: I wrote this unpublished post when I got home from the hospital last Wednesday. My friend died early Saturday morning.