15 months ago I met two of the nicest people who one day out of the blue decided to call me. He was 68 and she was 67. They looked like retirees you would see in any magazine advertisement, groomed, tanned, dressed well. Between the two of them, they had decided that it was about time that they sit down and make some plans. All of their kids lived out of state with their own families and lives and they didn't want to have to burden them if anything should happen to either of them, or both. They were from an area that was close to where I was born and raised and we could really relate to many things both here and there. We talked all about the things we missed and the places locally where we could get reasonable facsimiles of the same. We shared the same feelings about more than one topic and there was a closeness felt although we were still basically strangers. After about an hour of conversation the underlying reason why they were with me that day finally showed itself.
Just one month earlier he had gone through bypass surgery and although he didn't look it he was sure that he wasn't long for this world. At first she joked about it but eventually admitted that the doctor's had told them that this wasn't going to be a long term fix. His body had been so weakened by years of illness that although they bypassed a blockage his arteries were "shot". So today's visit was in preparation of his death.
Three days ago I received a call from a local hospital advising us that the "_____" family was requesting our services. I hadn't become friends with these two but as I said there was a closeness when we met and I immediately felt it again. The shocking part ( you'd think by now I'd have learned!) was that it wasn't him; she had died. We went to get her and he was still there with one of his son's. I didn't expect him nor did I expect the reaction when he saw me. I said hello, told him my shock and expressed my condolences. Before I could say another word he wrapped his arms around me and his steely composure just disappeared as he began to weep. "I thought it would be me, it was supposed to be me, this is wrong!" The son, who I'd never met started crying too and the three of us were standing in the hospital hallway all hugging one another. I couldn't help but feel like crying myself yet I struggled to hold back, I had to try to help these two.
After the funeral, I spoke to one of his sons; the one from the hospital. They were all going home the next day and he was going to be all alone. After 49 years. I asked the son if it would be okay with him if I kept in touch with his father. Maybe call him now and again to see how he's doing. What he said and did at that moment made me "once again" realize why I have to do what I do. He looked up and said "thank you", then looked at me for a moment before the bear hug. "You don't know how glad I am to hear you ask that". "Dad's going to need a friend and I know he thinks the world of you". "Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!!". "When Dad goes it will be a relief knowing you'll be here to take care of him".
I never stop realizing new sides to myself. I only take care of the dead on the side, my true need is to take care of the living that are left behind. They are the ones that need me and they are the ones I need.