ok, i’m ready.
a couple of blog posts back i said i wasn’t ready to talk about my friend, wally. i am now.
wally looked like he had been a handsome man at some point in his youth, but age, addiction and cancer had robbed him of that. his sunken eyes and cheeks spoke to his sickened state better than any other feature on his dying body. i’ve seen pictures of holocaust survivors in concentration camps that looked healthier than he did.
one day wally asked me for a new pair of pants. i grabbed the key and we went up into the donations rooms to find him something. since he didn’t own a belt, we tried to find pants that fit him snug. we couldn’t. he was too skinny. it was then that it hit me how sick wally was.
i apologized for not being able to find him a pair of pants that fit but wally just shrugged it off and told me not to worry. the dirty and torn jeans he had on would have to suffice. i offered to find a pair at the clothing store down the street but he wouldn’t have anything of it. he shook my hand, thanked me for my time and left. his hands were bony and cold.
there are some memories that always stay with you.
on one overnight shift i was able to sit and talk with wally about his life. he had not had an easy go at life by any stretch of the imagination, but, as he told me, ‘other people have had worse lives’. i wasn’t sure then and i’m still not sure now whether he said that to comfort me or himself. possibly both.
chemotherapy was wrecking his body, inside out. the cancer he had was an aggressive type so the doctors were meeting it with equally aggressive therapy. and there was wally stuck in the middle, his frail body barely holding up under such horrendous conditions.
drinking alcohol numbed the pain, he told me. he didn’t care that it made things worse. he was going to have as much fun with his friends as he could before he passed into the next life. his immune system could just suck it up, he told me.
wally coughed up blood and i panicked slightly. i think he saw the worried look on my face as he wiped the bloody spit from his lips.
‘don’t worry about it, lucas. i’m fine’.
he wasn’t fine but the way he said it almost made me believe him. his voice carried such warmth and care. the type of voice that puts you at ease. i wanted to believe him so badly but i knew the cancer had him in a bad way.
‘do you even want to beat cancer?’
i regretted asking it as soon as the words left my mouth. how insensitive could i possibly be?
‘on most days, no.’
after a few moments, he continued:
‘i think i’m ready to die, lucas. i’ve dealt with a lot of pain in my life and i think when i die the pain will end.’
i haven’t talked death so frankly with anyone in my life like i did with wally that night.
‘but, there are some days when i’m with good people – my friends, what remains of my family and relatives – that i gain more strength to want to fight and live longer.’
‘conversations like the one we are having right now, lucas, they give me more strength and desire to keep pushing forward’.
with that, he shook my hand and limped his way to his bed, blessing me beyond any words could ever describe.
thanks, wally. i hope your pain is gone now and you are finally at rest.