Sunday, September 18, 2011

What Do You Want?

I sat uneasily staring at the young man sitting across from me. He winced and painstakingly adjusted in his seat to find a comfortable position. His face gray and withered had taken on the look of the nursing home surrounding us. Drabness pervaded.

At thirty eight he was much too young to be incarcerated in such a manner. He was a victim of biology's cruel misfortune. He had usurped the privileges of age prematurely. He was dying of cancer.

His legs were paralyzed since undergoing surgery to remove tumor from his spine. His lungs, stifled by nodules, gurgled and sputtered with every breath. His hands clenched with each movement. The pain was debilitating.

His doctor discharged him from the hospital with instructions to get stronger. A few weeks of therapy and you'll be ready for your next round of chemo...your next back surgery.

I listened to his explanations and begrudgingly hid the doubt and disgust that percolated through my brain. What kind of physician encourages his dying patient to waste his last hours of life doing physical therapy?

I focused my thoughts for a moment. If I impose my will on him am I any better then the doctor who exhorted physical therapy? Could I recommend hospice with a clear conscience?

So what do you think of all this?

As I waited I searched him for direction. He paused. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. A tear formed and rolled down his cheek.

I think I'm dying!

I reached over to the desk and handed him a tissue. I thought of my wife and children. How would I handle his situation? Would I except the harshness of reality or would I fight impossible odds?

What do you want?

His eyes, which had been focusing on the floor, shot up to meet mine.

I want this to be over. I want to be out of pain.

His face brightened. The grayness disappeared and he smiled and started to laugh. I asked what was so amusing.

What I want?

No one has ever asked me that before!

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