Tonight, I sit beside Bob's bed as he sleeps, and I hear the voices emanating from the hall outside our room. I don't know the young man, aged 39, that is in the end-of-life process, but family and friends have gathered as his time seems to be nearing the end. I've uttered words of comfort, if there are any, to his parents, and I've shed my own tears - maybe because we are also living with cancer. I cannot imagine, as his father says, losing a child - especially one with so many years left to live.
I've seen his young son and daughter as they've paced up and down the hall, on their way to their father's room. He has been in the hospital since Christmas Day, and has been unresponsive since mid week. All their lives have been placed on hold. As our daughter Robbie has said, "Cancer seems to metastasize to the entire family."
There's a sort of unspoken bond among the people on this 6th floor, for so often the stories that come from these rooms don't have a happy ending, in this life.
During our first trip to the hospital, when Bob had just been diagnosed with cancer, I met this young man as he and his wife walked "around the block". They stopped outside Bob's room, and we visited. He had only recently been diagnosed with cancer in his esophagus, and because of a misdiagnosis, it had been allowed to spread to other areas of his body. He was thin and gaunt, and his prognosis was grim.
How ironic that he would be there and we would meet on our first trip to the oncology floor, and we would be there on his last trip. Surely there was a hidden message somewhere in this sadness.
I didn't even know the name of this young man that was about to embark on his final journey out of this life, but I knew that even though this family had a few months to deal with his impending death - it would never be enough. I could feel their pain. I knew they had lumps in their throats that wouldn't go away. I knew they cried at night, in their bed. I knew they cried, as they showered and the water washed over them. I knew they must have asked "Why us? Why him?" I could feel their anguish, and even though I didn't know him, I knew their pain and their fear.
And I knew that so often, a trip to this floor is the first leg of the final journey...........