When Thea still had not come back from her evening shift by eleven thirty I was starting to get worried. She always bikes back from the hospital, and although it is a mere ten minute trip, I do not like the idea of her bicycling alone in the dark.
Finally when I heard the door open downstairs I felt relieved. Rather than confront her with my overly worrisome demeanor, I asked her instead in a calm tone of voice how her evening had been.
"Something really strange happened this evening," she told me. I listened as she continued.
"There was this old man who had just had an operation. Everyone knew that he would die eventually, probably within a couple of weeks. But no one had expected this."
"And what was the 'this' exactly?" I asked.
She paused a split second to order the events of the evening in her head. "Well, he seemed perfectly fine, sure he was eighty-three years old and pretty sick. But the whole family had been around his bedside, and he was talking and seemed happy enough..."
I wanted to ask her to get to the point, but I didn't want to interrupt her rudely.
"...about half an hour after the family had left, that is when it happened. I was standing right next to him, arranging some items on his cabinet when he started to breath heavily. At the end he took two deep breaths, and then complete eerie silence. And that was that." She made it sound so definite, which it was.
I guess he had died, so I stupidly inquired for some reason, probably because I felt uncomfortable her telling me all this. How else should I react?
"So did he die?"
Of course he died, she gave me that look and didn't have to say it out loud. Okay, okay. For Thea it was normal and has happened to her on a number of occasions. People getting old and dying, even younger people dying for no reason. Sad but that is the way life is. Afterall, she is a nurse. But for me it is still a totally bizarre idea. Some real live person who had been born, grew up and spent more than eighty years on the Earth living and thinking. There she was at the moment of death, bizarre.
"Of course he died," Thea told me as if she had expected that I should have known this all along.
I continued, "So what was so strange then?"
Thea repeated herself slightly caught back, "well I just hadn't expected it was all."
"So," I added, "that's why you were late this evening."
"Yes, I had to stay after to fix him up and stuff, make him ready."
This old man of eighty-three years had become no more. Thea had been less than two feet from him when his last thoughts went puff. This old man was later wheeled down to the basement where the mortuary is. Thea brushed the experience off and came home to me. Her husband who is just a little more that half way to eighty-three years.
When I die it will probably be easier for her since she has already witnessed numerous other deaths. She is more down-to-earth in that regard.
I would like it if she were right next to me when it happened.