Today I’ve been thinking about our friend, Louis. He is dying. He's almost 90 and in congestive heart failure. After surviving several bouts with cancer, a defective valve that could have been fixed several years ago is now beyond repair. His body …
Today I’ve been thinking about our friend, Louis. He is dying. He's almost 90 and in congestive heart failure. After surviving several bouts with cancer, a defective valve that could have been fixed several years ago is now beyond repair. His body is shutting down.
After several days in the hospital, confusion set in. He called us at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning to ask if we would call his nephew and have him to come to the hospital. I hated ringing his nephew at that hour, but I promised our friend I'd call. Steve is the caregiver for our friend. He was apparently no stranger to calls in the wee hours of the morning. "He's sundowning," Steve said to explain his uncles’ call. Sundowning is a term used to describe patients when they are toward the end of their journey. They can't tell night from day. As a result, they sleep little, and their behavior becomes erratic.
I told his nephew I'd guessed what was going on. Jilda's mom experienced the same thing just before she died. He apologized, but I told him there was no need. We understood.
Fast forward to last night — my eyes opened at 3 a.m. For an hour and a half, all I could do was stop, rewind and play old mental movies of the good times we have had with our friend.
We met Louis six years ago while Jilda was undergoing infusion treatments. He took weekly treatments to keep his health numbers stable. After meeting Jilda, he changed his clinic days so that he was in the infusion room the first Wednesday of each month when Jilda was there.
On infusion days, she and Louis first got the treatment-room news from all their chair buddies. Then they moved on to solve nagging problems like world peace, true happiness and the rising cost of sweet potatoes. During the hours they hung tethered to beeping machines, I took my laptop to the cafeteria and wrote my column.
Louis was the mayor of the infusion room and knew everyone that came into that space. He knew not only their names, but also the names of their parents, children and pets. He wasn’t nosy, but a great conversationalist. People opened up to him. Whenever he clicked into the room with his walking cane, he raised the vibration level. He could make people smile and smiling is rare when people are sick.
Most of the other people in that infusion room during the three years of Jilda’s monthly visits are gone now. They succumbed to cancer and afflictions with names I can’t pronounce.
When Jilda stopped taking treatments a few years ago, our friendship with Louis continued. He attended our annual Empire Fish Fry every year. Holding court in the shade of the back deck, he used the tip of his cane as an exclamation pointer. We laughed so hard at his wisdom and dry wit until the muscles of our bellies were sore.
When we saw him this past Sunday tangled in tubes, white sheets and hospital gowns, he looked frail. As the old saying goes, life is a circle. Sometimes you’re up, and sometimes you’re down. I believe in miracles, but the money of Las Vegas odd-makers would be on the hospice nurses who say the end is near.
We plan to go this afternoon and visit with Louis again. If it’s like every other time we’ve been together, he will find a way to make us laugh. That is something I will miss when our old friend gone.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book,” Life Changes,” is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org