“I’m sorry, Peter. You’re dying.”
Everyone is doomed to die. Some will be old. Some will be young. Some will never take their first breath. Yet, despite that fact, I never expected to hear those words said right to my face.
“I’m so sorry. There’s nothing I can do.”
And, just like that, I’m dying. Suddenly, everything seems so frivolous and inconsequential. Arguments. Road rage. My hatred of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Peter looked down at the diamond pattern on his hospital gown.
What should I say? I guess I should be upset. This is one of those moments where being upset is not only understandable but also acceptable. And expected. I could wail, “Why me?” fifty-five hundred times and not be called a drama queen.
But all he could say was, “Oh, really?” in a mildly disinterested voice.
The doctor frowned. “Peter. If you want to wail and weep and—-”
“No. I don’t. I’m fine. I guess I’m not fine, but no. I’m good. I’m. Yeah. I’m gonna go home.” He shook the doctor’s hand. “Thank you.”
The doctor gave him a long list of names and numbers, but Peter had no idea who they all were much less why the doctor thought he’d call any of them.
“And if you happen to have a bucket list, this might be the time to start—”
A bucket list? Me? Why would I have a bucket list? That’s for people in their seventies and eighties. That’s for people who are dying.
I’ve never thought of myself as a dying person. I always thought of myself as vibrant. Alive. Strong heart. Strong head.
But I’m dying.
“Do you have any questions?”
Will it hurt when I take my last breath?
Will I know that it’s my last breath?
Will I be counting them down inside my head?
Will I feel the tug-of-war between death and life?
Will my life really flash before my eyes?
And, most important of all, what comes after that last breath is exhaled? After my heart has stopped beating? When the light leaves my eyes, what will I see?
Peter shook his head. “I just want to go home.”
The doctor reiterated the purpose of the phone list of mystery people and etceteras.
Peter didn’t hear any of it.
By the time Peter came home, night had fallen. There was no moon and the stars were hidden.
He hung up his coat, shluffed of his shoes and went up to bed.
But he didn’t go to bed.
He changed into his sensible, comfortable pajamas and walked out onto his balcony.
How many nights do I have left?
He looked up at the night sky, searching for a familiar face.
A long forgotten pattern in the blackened sky.
But the stars were hidden and the night was cold.
What am I doing out here? What am I thinking? What was I expecting? It’s been too long. Although I’m not that old, it has been too many years.
He sighed again.
Oh well. Time for bed.
He turned to go back inside.
The balcony doors were shut.
And a yellow ball of vibrant light stood fiercely on the door handle.
A well-sharpened sewing needle shined like gold in her hands.
She floated up to his face and spoke in her chime-like voice.
“It’s really you. Tink. What? No, I can’t.”
“But…look at me. I’m too old. I’m dying.”
She eye-rolled and called him a derogatory term for a donkey.
Her glow brightened.
“Okay. Let’s give it a try. If I fall, I fall. If I don’t, I fly.”
She blew him a kiss and some of her glow covered him.
He closed his eyes and thought of his happiest memories.
He didn’t think about ifs or tries. He trusted that it would happen. He had faith.
He could no longer feel the ground beneath his feet.
Peter opened his eyes and he saw it.
He smiled as he saw it.
“The second star on the right and straight on till morning.”